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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Federal Budget at a Glance

Dr. Mankiw points to a simple graphic from the Congressional Budget Office that nicely captures the bare minimum every citizen should understand about the federal budget:

  • Social Security: 22%
  • Medicare: 17%
  • Defense: 15%
  • Interest: 14%
  • Medicaid: 8%
  • Other: 23%
39 cents of every federal dollar gets redistributed to old folks. We hand nearly as much cash to our creditors, like China, as we spend on soldiers and guns. Discuss.


  1. Note that this graphic is projected for 2020 and is not the current budget.

  2. 14% of the budget is interest, and we are at historically low interest rates. In Greece the 2-year note went from 4.6% to 23% in a month.

    Google this "the most important chart of this century"

    We could cut the budget by 14% (as of current interest rates) If we just printed money, instead of selling bonds to China/Japan to get money.

  3. Thank you for that note, Kyle!

    [Aaron -- can't be my cousin if you're advocating printing more money. Enable your Google profile, please, so we can verify. Otherwise, you're anonymous and I have to hit Delete.]

  4. No it is your Not Racist, Not Violent, Just No Longer Silent cousin.

    Did I say print MORE money? I'm saying print money instead of selling bonds to China.

    I'm saying end our debt back currency.


  5. It would instantly debase our currency into oblivion. I don't like massive debt any more than you but I'm not going to advocate cutting off my debt-ridden head to spite my shoulders. Far better to slash our taxation and our spending to the bone. Cut military spending down to 7%, medicaid to 5%, and restructure SS into private accounts for everyone 55-. I find the graphic projection of 2020 may be unrealistic as the CBO estimates the Social Security program will start siphoning off money from the general fund starting around 2019.

  6. "It would instantly debase our currency into oblivion." No it wouldn't, as long as the amount created/printed is controlled. It's not what backs our money it is who controls the quantity. So if its Dr. Gideon Gono in control of the money supply then yeah there is a good chance that it will be debased to oblivion. However, if say congress took the money power back from the fed, I would hope that our congress would not print it to oblivion. Whats the difference if they raise the debt ceiling by 1.4 Trillion OR printed/created another 1.4 trillion? The difference would be the interest paid on that debt. One would have interest payments to Bond holders, one would be interest free.

  7. We currently sell bonds to back the currency that is being printed. You are advocating cutting out the backing of the currency, and leaving the amount of dollars in circulation to expand or contract at the will of congress. That would mean the international community would no longer be able to place a stable value on the dollar. All of our current debt could be instantly paid off just by ramping up the printing presses. It would destroy all trust in our currency overnight just by making the announcement, without even starting to print money. I understand the debt standard is largely a fiction as the Fed is already monetizing our own debt, but if that continues for long we will be able to look at Greece as a peaceful place by comparison. I am all for changing the debt standard (perhaps limiting the sale of US Bonds to US citizens would create a useful constraint on debt) but currency must be backed by something, preferably something with enough flexibility to be adjusted for macro-economic conditions.

  8. It does not matter what backs the currency it matters who controls its quantity. Google "tally sticks" nothing backed them but a piece of wood. Then there were eventually used to purchase a large portion of the bank of England. Yes, money supply would subtract at the will of congress, which I believe would be better then at the will of central bankers through there manipulation of interest rates.

    Check this out:

    Look at where it says "Comparison to Federal Reserve Notes"

    Pay attention to this line:
    "The difference between a United States Note and a Federal Reserve Note is that a United States Note represented a "bill of credit" and was inserted by the Treasury directly into circulation free of interest."

    These types of notes have circulated along side the Fed notes on occasion did our currency fall apart? Also our new $1 coins are not backed by anything except the $0.0550924 of actually metal that it contains.

    Like I said above It does not matter what backs the currency it matters WHO controls its quantity.

    To you want central and private banks to control the quantity OR the people. (through there elected officials.)

  9. Money is backed by the same source no matter what form it may take, bills, coins, or notes are all just varying representations of what we call the dollar. And the dollar has a value corresponding to what all parties involved agree it has. If we could convince China one dollar had enough value to buy...all of their tea. Than it would have that value. What you propose is allowing the deficit spending morons of Washington to control the money supply with no constraints. Even if what you are repeating about no interest were true and it only mattered who controlled the supply. Than it should be obvious that who had that control MUST have the faith of everyone who depends on the dollar to execute their control to maintain its value. Congress can not do it.

    You should take note that all changes in the value of any investment or debt do not exist until the point of sale/redemption. The scary scenario of the entirety of the US debt interest swallowing our budget whole is not the full reality. The reality is pretty awful but debt interest is not the apocalypse of our country. I'd be more concerned with spending than currency issues.

  10. Well actually the Monetary reform act does have constraints on how much can be printed. I agree I don't trust congress with this power either. I just don't think our debt based money can last.
    If you can a chance Watch "the secret of OZ" or "the money masters" both very good documentaries on the history of our money and central banks.


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