Acton Institute Powerblog

The Fleecing of America

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NBC Nightly News has long had a special feature titled, “The Fleecing of America,” which investigates various instances wasteful spending by government officials.

To get a visual clue about the massive size and diversity of the federal budget, check out “Death and Taxes”, the 2007 edition, “a representational graph of the federal discretionary budget. The amount of money that is spent at the discretion of your elected representatives in Congress. Basically, your federal income taxes.”

The website also notes, “Don’t forget about the national debt! It’s the circle so big it doesn’t even fit in the box.”

I recommend printing out the graph in landscape orientation on ledger-sized paper and posting it somewhere near your desk. You’ll get plenty of questions from curious passers-by.

(HT: Mises Economics Blog)

Update: In response to the limitations of the graph noted by Tim in the comments section below, it should be noted that this graph does only refer to discretionary spending. This does not include either the mandatory spending that falls under the federal budget each year or the various entitlement programs, such as Social Security, which are “off budget.” With this in mind, of course, the pork in the graph above is the good news, relatively speaking.

With regard to speculation as to why the makers of the budget graph chose only to look at discretionary spending, I quote this Reason article: “Because discretionary spending can theoretically be zeroed out each year, it is generally regarded as the clearest indicator of whether a president and Congress are serious about reducing government spending.”

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.


  • Tim

    The graph is interesting but misleading since is only covers discretionary spending. Without the addition of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (non-discretionary), the military spending looks much larger than it is (which may be partly the point of the graph). The author didn’t include them because they “are far less interesting” and “they wouldn’t fit”, but wouldn’t that be more honest?

  • Jim

    Talk about Military spending, how much has the “War” in Iraq cost America so far??? We could of spent this money on green energy projects like solar panels and wind energy in our country and saved billions of gallons of oil dependent energy sources thus avoiding $140.00 a barrell prices and $4.50 a gallon at the pump gas prices. I thought the oil from Iraq was supposed to pay for the “War”! Fleecing of America’s backbone–the working middle class!

  • Peter Wachter

    Has any one checked into NASE organization which promotes MEGA health insurance? At first their monthyl fee of $10.00 was included in the MEGA health ins. bill which would leave one to believe that in order to have one you had to have both. Now they are billing seperate but no mention has been made that they are a seperate inity from MEGA.