J and D's Corner

From the Letters Archive

Actually, I screwed up a little on the figures due to consulting two different databases but the basic idea is right.  Fortunately, in California few people can add anyway :-)


To:  AV Press

Date: 09/2007

Re:  Statistics

“Figures don’t lie but liars can sure figure” is an old saying but a good one to keep in mind when you read some numbers that just don’t look right.  What prompted this observation was a reader’s letter stating that defense consumed the lion’s share of the $2.8 trillion Federal budget (51% was the figure quoted).  Where the writer got this idea is a mystery, as the actual budgeted figure is about 25%. 

By far and away the largest item in the Federal budget is what we euphemistically call “transfer payments”, meaning tax money taken from businesses & current workers and given to others for various reasons. This includes Social Security, Income Security (welfare), and Medicare-Medicaid. Together these account for over $1.6 trillion, 58% of the federal budget, and well over twice what we spend on defense.  The remaining 27% pays for a grab-bag of domestic and international discretionary spending, various federal retirement programs and interest on the national debt. 

In considering these numbers I would point out that our Constitution, in enumerating the functions for which our federal government was created, places “provide for the common defense” as a key endeavor.