There are many of ways to look at federal spending in the United States, and there is no one "right" way. One is to look at Congress' choices in divvying up the "discretionary" dollars over which they have say (this is the 57% we illustrate in our chart). Another is to look at how each tax dollar is divided. This approach includes "mandatory" spending determined by formulas, in addition to the discretionary items. Our colleagues at the Friends Committee on National Legislation take this approach; we use their numbers to calculate estimated spending on wars in one minute: $2.2 million. A third approach is to look at the entire federal balance sheet. This method includes categories like Social Security and Medicare, which are not funded from income tax revenues but from separate designated taxes.We use two different views to help show the extreme level of military spending by the US, but there are many more. AFSC encourages all Americans to learn as much as possible about the US budget. See references for our materials below. We encourage you to check those references and to form your own opinion.
Where did the chart showing 57% is military spending come from?
57% is the percentage of the president’s proposed 2014 discretionary budget targeted for military spending. This does not include all the budgeted spending, just the programs that get approved every year. If you look through the fine print of the budget that figure could be pushed even higher (for example, much of the State Department budget is used for foreign military aid). The pie chart below shows the same chart in more detail. You can see the full budget proposal on the Office of Management and Budget (our figures are from Summary Table S-11).
Where did $2.2 million come from?
Using figures from the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), AFSC estimates that the United States spent $2.2 million on the military every minute during 2012.
- 37% of federal income tax dollars were spent on military programs:
- 27% for current military programs
- 6% for debt incurred to pay for the military
- 4% for benefits paid to those who served in the military in the past.
FCNL's reports $3,002,545,000,000 was spent in 2012 from the “federal fund” budget that our income taxes go into (this does not include Social Security or Medicare, which are paid for separately).
Why do groups like FCNL and National Priorities Project have different numbers?
Budget reports vary because the US budget is incredibly complicated. There are many ways to look at the budget, all of which help you understand a part of the picture. We use simplified views to help explain what’s going on. For example just using numbers from the White House and FCNL we develop two numbers that tell two different stories to illustrate how large US military spending is. Using those same figures, FCNL creates their popular coin chart to tell the same story a different way. The National Priorities Project and the War Resisters League look at the budget slightly differently so they get different estimates but they still tell a similar story: military spending is out of control.