The Facts of the Federal Budget

On Friday, join CRFB senior policy director Marc Goldwein as he discusses Wall Street Journal writer David Wessel's newest book Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget. Goldwein and Wessel will participate in a lively chat along with Noam Scheiber, a New America Foundation Schwartz Fellow and senior editor of The New Republic.

The book is a great introduction to the federal budget and our current fiscal situation, complete with a brief history of fiscal policy, profiles of notable players in the budget world, and stories that illustrate many of the problems in the federal budget with solutions to help us become more fiscally responsible. Wessel makes the case for fiscal responsibility with facts, not his own opinion and it is a refreshing read for anyone interested in fiscal policy.

Here are a few of the many fiscal facts in Wessel's book:

  • Nearly two-thirds of annual federal spending is on autopilot and doesn’t require an annual vote by Congress.
  • The U.S. defense budget is greater than the combined defense budgets of the next seventeen largest spenders.
  • Firing every federal government employee wouldn’t save enough to even cut the deficit in half.
  • About $1 of every $4 the federal government spends goes to health care today, and that share is rising inexorably.
  • The $700 billion bank bailout didn’t cost taxpayers nearly as much as initially feared. (It is $32 billion by the latest estimate).
  • The share of income most American families pay in federal taxes has been falling for more than thirty years. Today, Americans pay less of their income in taxes than the citizens of nearly every other developed county.
  • The federal government gives up almost as much money from tax loopholes, deductions, credits, and all other tax breaks as it collects in individual and corporate income tax.
  • For every dollar the U.S. government spent in 2011, it borrowed 36 cents, much of it from China where the income per person is about one-sixth of that in the United States.
  • Today’s budget deficit is not an economic problem—tomorrow’s is.

The event should be an interesting talk with three people well versed in the current and future state of the budget. For those on Twitter, be sure to use the handle #delveinto12 and join the conversation. We will be tweeting as well at @BudgetHawks. We hope to see you there.

You can RSVP for the event here.