What's in a number? 2008-2009 budget

Sometimes I'll see charts like this: and think, “Wow! That is a lot! maybe those republicans are right! Maybe spending is out of control! And so quickly after President Obama took office!” So why how did we go from a 500B to 1750B budget deficit? I thought I'd track the numbers down. The first thing I found was that the chart I saw (from this site, and a few others) was not exactly true. Here are the actual numbers from theĀ Whitehouse receipts and outlays table.

Year

Revenue

Outlay

2008

2523B

2982B

2009

2104B

3517B

Difference

419B

535B

Less revenue and increased spending = 954B. Pretty close to a trillion. But only 535B was increased spending, the loss in revenue was from decreased taxes collected because of the recession. So how about the 535B then? Going into the Whitehouse “superfunction and function” table, we see the major increases were:

Commerce and housing

263B

Social security, Vet Benefits, Medicare, Health

157B

Income security

100B

Total

520B

  • “Commerce and Housing” was part of the Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 It showed a positive cash flow (revenue) the next year as loans were starting to be repaid.
  • Social security, vet benefits, medicare and health were bespoken entitlements. Their increase was consistent with previous years. Congress made no changes in 2009 (congressional health care changes will not show up until 2012).
  • The biggest increase in “Income security” was unemployment for 77B (reference here). I guess that's not shocking considering the number of unemployed.

Those three add up to 520B. The extra 15 billion? I guess that did sneak in there, although that's consistent with nearly every other year of a modern budget. Not quite the 1.7 trillion number the first chart showed though :)