Monday, August 13, 2012

Skewed Angles

Often times our perceptions of what the US Government spends it’s money on is skewed. One such place is NASA’s budget. A survey in 2007 indicated that most Americans believed that NASA received almost 25% of the federal budget ($650 billion) when the actual budget that year was only $16 billion (this year’s NASA budget is closer to $11 billion). (source)

This is kind of scary how out of whack most people’s perceptions of what the Federal Government does spend on things. Part of it is the press’ inability to weed out the political slants of people pushing an agenda. I’m sure you’ve heard the statistic that 50% of the Federal Budget is spent on the military. This is a half truth in that the number 50% of the discretionary  budget and excludes a large portion of the Federal Budget in it’s calculation. In 2012 the military spending equated to $902 billion of a $3,795 billion budget. Doing simple math that’s 23% of the budget. Nearly half of the amount put out using adulterated budget numbers.

Many say we should spend more money on social programs, but when you ask how much we spend per person on social programs I suspect they will return a unrealistic low number compared with reality. Adding up Pensions ($819 billion), Health Care ($846 billion), and welfare ($451 billion) we get a total of $2.116 Trillion dollars. Assuming there are 314 million people in the US, we spend $6,738 per person on social programs. These numbers don’t include the money paid out by the individual states. We spend a shit load of money on social programs.

What I consider the core function of government is only $424 billion dollars of the budget (11%). General Science, Space and Technology $30.991 billion, Energy $23.270 billion, Natural Resources and Environment $42.829 billion, Agriculture $19.173 billion, Commerce and Housing Credit $79.624 billion, Transportation $102.552 billion, Community and Regional Development $31.685 billion, Administration of Justice $62.016 billion, General Government $31.763 billion. That’s about $1,350 per person. Think about all of the federal taxes you pay in a year, to do the basic function of the government, excluding the military, it’s less then $2,000 per person per year.

Maybe it’s time we took a look at what we spend our money on in the Federal Budget and reassess what we spend our money on. Nancy Pelosi indicated extending unemployment benefits would create 600,000 jobs. She calculates every dollar spent generates $1.73 in economic growth. A study way back in 2006 put NASA’s return on investment at $10 per dollar spent ($180 billion/$18 billion budget). It seems like Pelosi should be shoving money NASA’s way, instead the NASA budget has fallen in recent years. It seems like if we were serious about solving the unemployment problem we’d put our money where the returns are better. Especially since her, and my home state, would greatly benefit from the increase in spending. We could have taken just 10% of the extended unemployment benefits ($18 billion of a total of $184 billion) and double NASA’s yearly budget. Not quite sure why we need to pay people to stay home instead of developing new technology. And yes we are paying people to stay home.

Before you say no one gets paid to stay at home you have to think about the cost and reward of people taking a job. Personally I was one such person who was paid to stay home and not work. I could have worked at McDonald’s, but my paycheck from the Government was $415 per week. That means it would take a job that paid more then $15/hour for me to get back to work.

If you look at the numbers above we aren’t going broke spending money on NASA, roads, or agriculture. We are going broke on social programs. This is my skewed angle.