Understanding Trillions

Raising the deficit is rearing its ugly head once again. Forget about the points made by either side on this, yours truly is trying to wrap his head around the whole mess without the theatrics. One side wants to open the spigot wider and the other says every man and women or whatever for themselves. 

In my wanderings I found and interesting breakdown of what we spend as a country. It delineates those numbers in a per person presentation. Kind of cool.

The United States spent $6.48 trillion in 2022 which is down about $920 billon from the previous year. Not because we are getting thrifty. COVID et al weren’t quite so gluttonous at our national trough. 

Here we go:

The country spent a total of $19,434 for every human being in the USA. Kids and all.

Defense: $2282

Veterans: $812

Social Security $3657

Medicare $2269

Disadvantaged $1858

Interest on debt $1451

Grants to states $3707

Public Health  $3400

Total $!9,434

We had a budget surplus from 1998 to 2001.Our National Debt which we all pay interest on is now $31.4 trillion. This is the tab we have run up over the last 20 years due to social spending and yes, tax cuts. 

The proportion of federal spending per person has changed over the past 40 years away from national defense and toward social programs.

There is no doubt the seeds of these deficits were sown in the 60’s and 70’s with social programs enacted by Johnson and Nixon including Medicare and Medicaid. No one had a clue it would grow by these proportions. The Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, financial downturns in 2009 and 2020 and tax cuts have only exacerbated the problem. 

It is important to note: Social Security, Medicare,Medicaid et al were originally enacted as a fail safe, lest underprivileged people fall through the cracks. A social safety net of sorts. These have all grown into “entitlements” where everyone wants their fair share whether they need it or not. I often question whether we old farts would opt for every procedure, replacement or diagnostic test if we had to pay for them?

The US government has a mandatory and discretionary budget. Mandatory is locked in by law or circumstance. These include Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the debt. This accounts for 2/3 of our annual spending. It is the law. It would be political suicide to change any of this and most of it requires a 60% vote. Fugeddaboutit!

The discretionary budget is what is up for grabs. All of these require appropriations. These are defense, the FBI, education and whole slew of other social needs, research, and plain old pork barrel. This is where the negotiations take place. 

These all require appropriation bills. This is the so-called sausage making in Congress. In the times of mere mortals each side would give a little and voila we moved forward. Not so today where each vote is a litmus test or an infantile challenge to your manhood or womanhood. This is the process we support through or voting on election day. If you think it is screwed up we only have ourselves to blame. 

The biggest discretionary allocation is the the US military. This includes operation and maintenance, personnel, weapons development and testing and procurement. It is the likeliest place where people try to increase or decrease. Including veterans it is over half of discretionary spending. The other percentage is taken up by education, health, transpiration, housing and foreign aid. 

Strangely enough the discretionary does not bother me as much as the mandatory. Spending on Medicare and Medicaid has not just ballooned (Ha Ha!) but is exploding. I am going to go into in greater detail in another missive but suffice to say we ain’t getting any younger and for sure we are not getting healthier. Here in Flalaland just look around you at your next doctor’s appointment. That is our future. 

Trust me I am beyond torn by this whole mess. I hate debt and always have. We spend close to $500 billion on just interest alone and that is sickening. And we want to add to it by raising the debt ceiling. 

I am all for social services but the waste and misallocation are gigantic.There are people on the dole that have no business being there. You and I see them every day.  Fraud is rampant in the healthcare community. We have made healthcare and yes even hospice a money making venture for private equity. Details, details you say? These people aren’t altruistically giving money away. There is gold in them thar hills!

When you see the economy teetering on the brink come June over the debt crisis just remember these numbers. Know that the business decisions are being made not by clear thinking businessmen and women but by dudes and dudettes who rely not on rational  thinking but whether or not this is going to sell back home. In the land of plenty we have very tough decisions to make.Either cut benefits or raise taxes or both. If you have a better idea please tell me. I am stumped, but we have to do something. Or shall we just sit there?

As always

Ted The Great


I have given you too many already but I do have one. When I got into my schtick over coffee with a friend he asked me why I get so worked up? He said he just wanted to put his life on automatic. I just can’t do that. I wish I could.