Milken Institute's "10 Interesting Ecoomics Blogs"

MSNBC thinks federal budget trends would surprise people

Tom Curry of MSNBC writes that the "Long-term budget view may surprise you". It doesn't surprise me, but I teach this stuff. Curry writes that in 1954, military and defense spending accounted for fully 69% of the federal budget. Social Security was just 4%, and "other programs" were 20%. (Interest on the debt accounted for the remaining 7%.)

He could have noted that in 1964. in the Kennedy-Johnson years that some Liberals are now so nostalgic for, military spending accounted for a full 46% of the federal budget. As recently as 1984, miltiary spending was nearly 27%. Last year, even after the recent rise in military spending, the military accounted for less than a fifth of the federal budget, 19%.

Social Security (plus Medicare and Medicaid)? They now consume over 40% of federal spending, ten times 1954's 4%. And "other programs"? Up from 1954's 20% to last year's 31%.

I agree with Curry that a majority of American voters would probably find these trends surprising. I would contend further that they are an important reason why some politicians oppose prudent military spending. If we were still spending 69% of our budget on the military, there'd be less money to spend on a whole lot of other things, including infamous "bridges to nowhere".