Added: 7 May 2013
[Commentary] [Games and Quizzes] [Politics]

Spend the Federal Budget!

Go on a spending spree!

The US government spent about that much money in its "discretionary budget" for fiscal year 2013. The discretionary budget is the amount you can actually play around with -- beyond the mandatory spending on Medicare, Social Security, interest on the debt, and so forth. How would you spend it?

You'll be working in billions. Have fun.

What can I tell you? These numbers are basically reasonable approximations. The different income strata, tax rates, and revenues produced are all roughly correct at their default starting values (from

  • The AGI in the table is the total Adjusted Gross Income for each group.
  • AVG is AGI divided by number of returns in that income group.
  • Corporate taxes are based on the "average effective" rate rather than the (higher) nominal rate; it's more real life.
  • No attempt has been made to predict changes in economic activity as the tax rates change.
  • Revenue sources not listed have been lumped into the total revenue calculation as an unchangeable fixed sum.

In short, as an economic model, it lacks a certain precision and I hope the government doesn't rely entirely on us. On the other hand it's quite good educational fun and hopefully gives some simplistic but useful sense of the basic parameters governing budgets, deficits, surpluses, and most importantly, social priorities.

The People's Budget

The People's Budget Summary

  • Number of budgets submitted:
  • Average total spending:
  • Average revenue collected:
  • Average
  • Average tax rate on top 0-1%:
  • Average tax rate on top 1-5%:
  • Average tax rate on top 5-10%:
  • Average tax rate on top 10-25%:
  • Average effective corporate tax rate:
  • Average payroll tax rate:
Category Amount (billions)
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Includes the Department of Defense budget ($535B base amount) plus "overseas contingency funds" (about $97B, mostly for Afghanistan as of this writing), NASA's military work (conservatively estimated here at $4B), military stuff in the DOE budget ($11B for the National Nuclear Security Administration as well as $6B for cleaning up NNSA messes and "other defense"); also the Homeland Security budget ($49B), Veterans Affairs (about $65B discretionary), and the considerable amount of military stuff ($19B) from the Department of State budget
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This refers basically to the Department of State/USAID, but with the military/security stuff parsed out as much as possible. Which is hard to do, because so much embassy stuff can also be CIA stuff. But we've been conservative here, and only taken out bits that are clearly marked for military purposes, e.g., "Foreign Military". We don't count embassy security itself as military per se. All in all, in the FY 2013 budget, of the $47B allocated to State, a good $19B is earmarked for clearly military purposes.
Humanitarian/Foreign Affairs
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Non-military NASA. A substantial percentage of the NASA budget is spent for military purposes, such as military satellites or aeronautics research for fighter jets, but it's hard to say exactly how much. Estimates range from 20-50% so we've gone with the conservative end and taking out 20% of NASA's actual budget and adding that to Defense/Security to get the numbers shown in the "actual budget" column.
Space Exploration
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In the actual budget, most of this (around $2.2B) comes out of the Department of Energy budget, with about $86M from the Department of the Interior budget.
Renewable Energy/Conservation
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This is for the Department of Energy budget ($27B in the actual budget), minus the military component ($17B for the National Nuclear Security Administration and other defense-related categories), which we put under defense, and also minus renewable energy research (just over $2B), separated out into the renewables category.
Other Energy
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Essentially, the National Science Foundation budget. Energy research is under renewables and other energy, medical research is under health, military is under defense, so NSF catches most of the rest.
Other Science
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This category is basically split between Department of Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Protection of Natural Resources
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The Department of Agriculture was established by Abraham Lincoln as 'The People's Department.' It oversees education, production, research, environmental safety, and other stuff relating to food, the environment, and farming.
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Promotes job creation, economic growth, sustainable development and improved standards of living for all Americans by working in partnership with businesses, universities, communities and our workers blah blah blah blah blah. This is where you'll find support for people trying to start up small businesses, and special programs for small businesses owned by women, service-disabled veterans, and so forth.
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Infrastructure, modernization, air traffic control, high-speed passenger rail services, etc. Also has responsibility for livable/sustainable communities, e.g., accommodating pedestrian and bicycle traffic, especially in multimodal hubs where various forms of transportation converge.
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Department of Education. Schools, man, schools!
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National Endowments for the Arts & Humanities, and an Institute of Museum and Library Services
Arts, Humanities, Museums
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Remember, most of the federal budget for actual health care is mandatory spending for Medicare and Medicaid, so it's not reflected in the HHS budget figures shown here, which only indicate discretionary spending. If you wanted to provide money towards, say, universal health coverage, I suppose this would be the place to do it but in reality that would have to become mandatory spending, so it's sort of a separate issue and there's just no real place for it here. But, do what feels right. You're not constrained by reality here. You're allowed to spend willy nilly as you see fit, for whatever secret purposes you might have in mind.

One other thing to note is that HHS includes National Institutes of Health, which accounts for about $30B in medical research, which also could have gone under 'Science'. Judgement call. I kept it here.

Health & Human Services
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The Department of Housing and Urban Development, they're supposed to handle affordable housing and various projects to promote livable urban communities.
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The FBI and the courts, etc.
Law & Order
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The standard allocation, not including the special $50B for Hurricane Sandy, for example.
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Basic government operations and everything else that's too boring to specify. Or, I inexcusably forgot about. I derived the "actual budget" number by taking the known budget numbers from the categories above and subtracting them from the known real discretionary budget.
Everything Else
voting limitations
The People's Budget shows the combined average results of everybody's submissions. Submissions are logged by IP address and only one submission is allowed per day. You can reload the page and make a new submission, but it will overwrite your last one. So, if you wish to change something, you have the ability to revise, but you can't sit there and subvert the democratic process by sending in loads and loads of submissions. Leave the subversion of democracy to the professionals: your elected representatives!


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