The U.S. Treasury has released its Final Monthly Statement for fiscal year 2019. The 40 page report details federal receipts and outlays for the fiscal year.
Snore, you say.
I get it. Still, the report offers several good civics lessons which make it worth a look.
The report tees up basic facts first. Page 4 informs that in FY 2019, the federal government raked in $3,462 billion in revenue and shelled out $4,447 billion in expenditures.
Which left a budget deficit of $984 billion, chump change shy of $1 trillion.
Two taxes hauled in 86 percent of federal revenue: the payroll tax, which funds social security and unemployment compensation, and the individual income tax.
In FY 2019, the income tax grabbed $1,718 billion, while the payroll tax nabbed $1,243 billion. Corporate income taxes yanked $230 billion.
What about tariff revenues from all those tariffs imposed by “Mr. Tariff,” the guy whose office is oval? $71 billion, up from $41 billion in FY 2018.
As for expenditures, social security soaked up $1,044 billion; national defense, $688 billion; Medicare, $651 billion; other health programs, $585 billion; and income security, $515 billion.
Rising fast and coming in sixth is net interest on the federal debt, $376 billion.
The rest of the Treasury report gives revenue and expenditure details, including figures from the previous fiscal year.
Some highlights: Federal revenue grew by 4 percent in FY 2019, while federal spending grew by 8 percent. The budget deficit grew by 26 percent.
Details of the Treasury report reveal an important fact. Of hundreds of federal programs, no single program is a budget buster. And the vast majority are tiny relative to the total.
Consider International Assistance Programs – a gob of programs that includes International Security Assistance, the Agency for International Development and the Peace Corps.
Spending on all International Assistance Programs tallied $23.6 billion in FY 2019, up $1.9 billion — almost 9 percent — from FY 2018.
$1.9 billion is four-hundredths of one percent of federal spending. $23.6 billion is one half of one percent of federal spending. Eliminating all International Assistance Programs, never mind freezing them, would barely make a dent in the federal budget deficit.
Which is true of the vast majority of federal programs.
But they all add up. It illustrates Everett Dirksen’s civics lesson about government spending: a few billion here, a few billion there, after a while we’re talking real money.
Now consider the larger civics lesson of the Treasury report.
Next year is a big election year. Democrat candidates are promising the moon and a mid-size planet in new federal spending but are less than forthcoming about how to pay for it.
Republicans cry dishonesty. But Republicans accusing Democrats of dishonesty about federal fiscal matters is like a ripe skunk accusing a dead fish of smelling bad.
Candidate Trump promised to eliminate the federal debt in eight years while cutting taxes, jacking up defense spending and leaving social security and Medicare alone.
To no surprise, under his short watch the budget deficit has increased by 48 percent, while the federal debt has increased by $2.75 trillion. Republicans who blew froth every day for eight years about Obama deficits are all “Who cares about deficits?” shrugs and smiles now.
In short, next year voters will have a choice between candidates of the Democrat party, a party of gross fiscal irresponsibility, and candidates of the Republican party, a party of gross fiscal irresponsibility.