John Irons's Blog


Economic News, Data and Analysis

Federal Spending: Some graphs

A colleague of mine recently asked me to make a guess as to how much federal government spending went to national defense over the last 50 years. My guess was that it is currently about 15% and was once probably as high as 50%.
As the graph below shows, I was right on the low end, but significantly off on the top end. In 1952, defense spending reached a peak of 84% (!) of government outlays.
I thought it would be interesting to take a look at historical patterns of government spending, deficits, as well as the composition of current outlays. I think the data speaks for itself, so here are the graphs. (If you would like more details, the raw data can be found in the Budget of the U.S. Government .)
Defense as a Percent of Federal Outlays (1946-2000)
Components of Federal Outlays (1990-2000 average)
Components of Federal Outlays (1962-2006 est.)
Federal Receipts, Outlays, and Surplus (1930-2000)
Real Federal Debt held by the Public (1939-2000
Federal Receipts, Outlays, as a Percent of GDP (1960-2000)
Real Federal Debt held by the Public, as a Percent of GDP (1947-2000)

(Note: F. Westhoff generously provided the data for the first and the last 4 graphs on the list above.)


Filed under: Economics



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