“Automatic” federal spending near $2 trillion

Released: 
February 02, 2013

More than half of all federal spending occurs automatically on mandatory programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

More than half of all federal spending occurs automatically, without any congressional debate or vote. 55.5 percent of the federal budget, about $2 trillion, is so-called “mandatory” spending – Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs. Actual spending levels are determined by the number of people who qualify for benefits, not Congressional action. “Discretionary” spending – programs actually approved by Congress each year, from defense to education to Amtrak – accounts for less than 45 percent of the budget.

Our infographic has more stats. Check it out, then dig into how federal spending really works by browsing “What Do Others Say?” And add to the discussion below: how do you feel about the hands-off “mandatory” spending mechanism?