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.”