Monday, February 05, 2007

Budget Number Relationships

The Fiscal Year 2008 Federal Budget From Another Viewpoint

The Fiscal Year 2008 Budget Request for the United States Government comes to $2.9 Trillion. Written out, that is 2.9 plus eleven zeros

Now that’s starting to get into spitting distance of 3 Trillion – 3 with 12 zeros.

That recalled to mind the “big” announcement from the Census Bureau that on October 17, 2006 the population of the United States hit 3 hundred million – that is 3 followed by eight zeros.

Now if you divide the Budget request by the population, the President proposes to spend $10,000 for each person living in the United States. For the purists, if we stick with the budget submission at $2.9 Trillion, total spending per capita by the federal government comes out to $9,666.

If one takes the Federal Budget request at $2.9 trillion and divides it by the amount of this year’s Defense Department Base budget of $481.4 billion, the result is 6.02. That is the number of years of spending just on Pentagon programs for Defense to equal the total 2008 budget request.

To fight the “Global War on Terror” in 2008, the White House wants another $141.7 billion. In 20.5 years – virtually a single generation – spending at this rate will hit $2.9 Trillion. In a press briefing today on the Budget, the Pentagon said it had no intention of coming back for more money in FY2008. But this is the same outfit that said the war would cost no more than $50 billion when, including the 2008 request, the dollar cost is approaching $750 billion.

And the trend lines are going in the wrong direction.

The Pentagon recently revised its estimate of monthly expenditures for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan from $8.0 billion to $8.4 billion – that is 8.4 followed by eight zeros. Taking 30 days as an average month, that means the war is costing $280,000,000 per day. As it happens, that is within spitting distance of the U.S. population figure – the aforementioned 300,000,000. So each person in the U.S. might as well hand over $365 to the Pentagon except for 2008 when the cost would be $366 since 2008 is a leap year.

Better yet, perhaps every person should consider deducting $365 (or $366) from their taxes.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Col Smith, it would be valuable for FCNL's readers to put the military budget discussion currently presented on the FCNL website in an historical context. Please consider the article at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16928315/from/RS.5/ which compares the 1954 and 2006 DoD budgets in terms of their respective percent of the total Federal budgets (1954/2006), and in terms of % of GDP (1954/2006). The numbers given are actual outlays and actual percents of known wholes.

FCNL has an important message that needs to be present in society's discussion of our collective priorities. However, when FCNL states "41% of your tax dollars to to war," it abandons the strength of advocating for, and from a position of, simple truths. Instead it stands on the shaky soap box of statistical concoctions to "support" its message.

Ruth Flower's assessment has several major flaws. First, it doesn't use known wholes--it excludes the truly important portion of mandatory federal spending on social security, income security, medicare, and the mandatory portions of federal health and veterans benefits spending. Of the $2.47 Trillion FY06 budget, she leaves out nearly $1.33 Trillion, or 53.8%. [$2.47T budget; $960B discretionary spending included; $1.5T mandatory spending, of which she includes debt payments for "past wars" and non-military spending, which is 12% or $180B; $960B + $180B = $1.14T considered; $2.47T - $1.14T = 1.33T not considered].

The 1.33T exclusion along with the technique of combining current spending and past debt allows FCNL to post the eye-catching "41%" statistic. Interestingly, the chart also implies that a combined 41% of "federal tax dollars" ($844B by chart numbers)goes to health research/sevices (19%), response to poverty (12%), Community/Econ. Development (5%) and Social Programs (5%). However, this 41% is not presented as a "combined" figure to add emphasis to its (equivalent) size. Furthermore, the numbers in the "social benefits" catagories given do not include the $1.33 Trillion mandatory spending on Social Security, Income Security, Medicare, and the mandatory portions of health and veterans benefits spending, all of which are well described by monikers such as "Social Programs" and "Responses to Poverty."



As Samuel Clemens stated, there are lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics. Please encourage your fellow FCNL staff to stick with simple, powerful, truths.

12:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Col Smith, it would be valuable for FCNL's readers to put the military budget discussion currently presented on the FCNL website in an historical context. Please consider the article at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16928315/from/RS.5/ which compares the 1954 and 2006 DoD budgets in terms of their respective percent of the total Federal budgets (1954/2006), and in terms of % of GDP (1954/2006). The numbers given are actual outlays and actual percents of known wholes.

FCNL has an important message that needs to be present in society's discussion of our collective priorities. However, when FCNL states "41% of your tax dollars go to war," it abandons the strength of advocating for, and from a position of, simple truths. Instead it stands on the shaky soap box of statistical concoctions to "support" its message.

Ruth Flower's assessment has several major flaws. First, it doesn't use known wholes--it excludes the truly important portion of mandatory federal spending on social security, income security, medicare, and the mandatory portions of federal health and veterans benefits spending. Of the $2.47 Trillion FY06 budget, she leaves out nearly $1.33 Trillion, or 53.8%. [$2.47T budget; $960B discretionary spending included; $1.5T mandatory spending, of which she includes debt payments for "past wars" and non-military spending, which is 12% or $180B; $960B + $180B = $1.14T considered; $2.47T - $1.14T = 1.33T not considered].

The 1.33T exclusion along with the technique of combining current spending and past debt allows FCNL to post the eye-catching "41%" statistic. Interestingly, the chart also implies that a combined 41% of "federal tax dollars" ($844B by chart numbers)goes to health research/services (19%), response to poverty (12%), Community/Econ. Development (5%) and Social Programs (5%). However, this 41% is not presented as a "combined" figure to add emphasis to its (equivalent) size. Furthermore, the numbers in the "social benefits" categories given do not include the $1.33 Trillion mandatory spending on Social Security, Income Security, Medicare, and the mandatory portions of health and veterans benefits spending, all of which are well described by monikers such as "Social Programs" and "Responses to Poverty."


As a final flaw, the analysis asserts and/or implies that all current and past DoD spending goes "to war." By that definition, the military humanitarian relief missions to earthquake victims in Pakistan, Tsunami victims throughout the Indian ocean, hurricane and mudslide victims in Honduras and elsewhere, flood victims in New Orleans were all "acts of war" that FCNL would like its readers to condemn. For many of those victims of disaster the U.S. military relief was the first, and for a few in extremely remote areas it was the only, assistance provided. Also significant in budget terms is DoD funding for retirement benefits (which are separate from and far exceed Veteran's Administration funding), health care for members and families, housing, community centers, gymnasiums, child care and family support centers, affordable food, etc.; these provide not just for military members, but for their families as well.

The global reach of America's military is a tool, one that can be used as a means of peaceful outreach as well as for war. Condemning the tool is as sensible as condemning rocks, which can be used both to build a home or cause grievous injury.

As stated above, FCNL's call for peace is very important to a healthy discussion of events and activities in today's world. But presenting utterly misleading statistics and choosing catchy headlines/"sound-bite" statements that obscure objective reality does not add to the strength, integrity, or clarity of the voice of the FCNL. Part of living simply is sticking to the truth (even when it is complicated in detail). As Samuel Clemens stated, there are lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics. Mathematically and verbally, please encourage your fellow FCNL staff to stick with simple, powerful, truths.

2:34 PM  

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