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How Washington Spends Your Taxes, 2010 Version

It’s always difficult to find a brief overview of any topic, let alone a quick picture of the federal budget. Well, Brian Riedl, a budgetary affairs fellow at the Heritage Foundation has a brief commentary showing where the majority of your federal tax dollars go; the op-ed first appeared in the McClatchy newspapers.

Mr. Riedl starts with the really high level numbers, writing:

“Washington will spend $31,406 per household in 2010 — the highest level in American history (adjusted for inflation). It will collect $18,276 per household in taxes. The remaining $13,130 represents this year's staggering budget deficit per household, which, along with all prior government debt, will be dumped in the laps of our children.

“Government spending has increased by $5,000 per household since 2008, and nearly $10,000 per household over the past decade. Yet there is no free lunch: If spending is not reined in, then eventually taxes must also rise by $10,000 per household.”

A breakdown of the $31,406 per household shows:

  • Social Security and Medicare - $9,949
  • Defense - $6,071
  • Anti-poverty programs - $5,466
  • Unemployment benefits - $1,640
  • Interest on the federal debt - $1,585
  • Veterans benefits - $1,052
  • Federal employee retirement benefits - $1,018
  • Education - $914
  • Highways/mass transit - $613
  • Health research/regulation - $550
  • Mortgage Credit - $470
Total of 11 items above - $29,328
  • All other - $2,328

As one campaign slogan in 1992 said, “It’s the spending, stupid.” Riedl's commentary has more details, but the numbers above provide the "big picture."

For a more indepth discussion of the federal Fiscal Year 2011 budget, Heritage Foundation Backgrounder 2382 provides greater detail, including charts.

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