An Unbiased, Informative Post on the Federal Budget, the Deficit, and the National Debt


[Photo Credit]

My only intent is to inform.  Really.

First, go to Office of Management and Budget.  Start with the Summary Tables (2011 Fed Budget Summary Tables).  Click around.  Order a pizza and click around some more.  Download some of the spreadsheets and play with ‘em.  Print ‘em out, use a highlighter, circle things. . .  Make sure to spend some time on these pages:

When you get the urge to open Excel and start doing your own calculations, STOP, because some very smart people who get paid to simplify things have already done quite a bit of work.  A couple of folks at the New York Times have done a better job visually representing the budget than I could have done in a solid month of full-time effort.  Here’s the link:

If you aren’t impressed by this graphical representation, then go back to the OMB site, make a better one, then send me a link to it (because based on my experience trying to make sense of the budget, this site is as good at it gets).

Just to set the stage (before adding a few more links), the projected deficit is around 1.27 TRILLION dollars for the 2011 federal fiscal budget (the U.S. government’s fiscal year begins on October 1 of the previous calendar year and ends on September 30 of the year with which it is numbered).  So WHO, exactly, is working to restore some fiscal rectitude?  Here are a few important links:

National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform ( – From the site: “President Obama created the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to address our nation’s fiscal challenges. The Commission is charged with identifying policies to improve the fiscal situation in the medium term and to achieve fiscal sustainability over the long run.”

Peterson-PEW Commission on Budget Reform ( - From the site: “The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget is a bipartisan, non-profit organization committed to educating the public about issues that have significant fiscal policy impact. The Board is made up of many of the past leaders of the Budget Committees, the Congressional Budget Office, the Office of Management and Budget, the Government Accountability Office, and the Federal Reserve Board.”

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities ( - From the site: “The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is one of the nation’s premier policy organizations working at the federal and state levels on fiscal policy and public programs that affect low- and moderate-income families and individuals.”  This site points out that most of the current budget deficit can be directly traced to recent tax cuts and substantial increases in military spending–see these two reports in particular: Getting the Facts Straight & Where Today’s Large Deficits Come From.  The latter includes an interesting chart that visually represents the sources of the current deficit.

Here are a few recent posts on a couple political blogs that are interesting (a quick Google search will generate numerous others):

All conspiracy theories aside, there are some very smart people that have spent good portions of their lives dealing with these issues.  If there is a simple answer, it’s that there is no simple answer.  A balanced budget would require cataclysmic change.  Try to imagine any politician–with the exception, maybe, of Ron Paul–standing up and explaining that next year allocations to the military will be reduced by 50%, the retirement age for Social Security benefits will rise to 70, Medicaid and Medicare programs will be cut by 20%,  income tax rates will be raised significantly (across all income brackets), and that a national 10% VAT tax will be put into place.  That might balance the budget.  Maybe.

Our government doesn’t seem to be structured in a way that promotes fiscal restraint.  Is it time that we, as citizens, focus on changing the incentive structure for politicians?  What would that look like?  A balanced budget amendment?  Or maybe we just turn the Tea Party loose for a few months in DC?

About the author

Brent D. Beal is an associate professor of management in the College of Business and Technology at the University of Texas at Tyler. In his spare time, he enjoys debating religious and political issues, reading and writing short stories, playing Scrabble, and hanging out with his wife and their three kids.

Leave a Comment

Powered by WordPress | Deadline Theme : An Awesem design by Orman