$3.15 trillion automatic government spending goes on in spite of ‘shutdown’

Monopoly_Money_CartoonBy Robert Romano

One surprising aspect of the partial federal government so-called “shutdown” is what a small portion of the budget is actually affected, in turn bringing attention to just how little impact Congress can have on spending through the normal budget process.

Some $2.5 trillion of federal outlays — more than 66 percent of all spending — is categorized as so-called “mandatory” spending. This is money that is automatically spent without any vote in Congress.

For the current fiscal year, according to the Office of Management and Budget, this includes Medicaid ($303.6 billion), the Refundable Premium Assistance Tax Credit ($32.2 billion), payments to reduce cost sharing in qualified health plans ($3.9 billion), Children’s Health Insurance ($9.9 billion), other health programs ($35.1 billion) Medicare ($523.8 billion), general retirement and disability ($6.9 billion), Federal employee retirement and disability ($140.7 billion), unemployment compensation ($56.2 billion), food and nutrition assistance ($98 billion), Supplemental Security Income ($53.1 billion), family and other support assistance ($25.1 billion), Earned Income Tax Credit ($55.6 billion), Child Tax Credit ($25.1 billion), payments to states for foster care/adoption assistance ($6.9 billion), housing assistance and other ($7.3 billion), Social Security ($860.3 billion), veterans benefits and services ($85.8 billion), and gross interest owed on the debt ($417.9 billion).

The reason these items on the budget are automatically spent is because they are done on the basis of who qualifies under the law, not on how much Congress appropriates for the programs.

In addition, some 2.6 million out of 3.4 million federal employees remain on the job according to CNN including active duty military.  When you add another 589,000 postal employees, in total 3.189 million out of 4.139 million federal workers — a whopping 77 percent — are still working.

These are funded out of the so-called “discretionary” portion of the budget as well as from revenues that many agencies like the postal service take in. Yet, if 3 out of every 4 workers remains on the job, one supposes that even this part of the budget — accounting for some $1.2 trillion of spending — is not as “discretionary” as is commonly believed.

Even when the government is supposedly “shut down,” when Congress has not voted to appropriate any money — excepting defense and law enforcement Congress did vote to pay for during the shutdown — they continue working and getting paid. Simply remarkable.

Forbes.com’s Paul Roderick Gregory finds that of the $620 billion non-defense “discretionary” spending, “at a minimum, $150 billion will be spent on essential services from agencies like Homeland Security, National Nuclear Security, Veterans Affairs, Social Security Administration, and others.” Defense spending will continue almost in full.

Therefore, out of the $3.627 trillion budget, even with the government supposedly “shut down,” $3.15 trillion will still be spent — some 86.4 percent of the budget.

With the government projected to take in $3 trillion in revenue in 2014, even if the government stayed “shut down” for the entire year would still run a deficit of $150 billion.

Congress could be abolished, and these programs would continue spending the money apparently into perpetuity, even though Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution states that “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law.”

Perhaps these sobering facts should give House Republicans cause to keep fighting against Obamacare — because adding even more so-called “mandatory” spending to our budget will mean that we never get the budget back to balance again.

If there’s been one great service performed by this funding showdown, it is now abundantly clear to everyone that Congress has no choice but to tackle the even harder issues of automatic spending. Failure to do so is failure to do their job. The shutdown illustrates the problem in no uncertain terms.

To call this a “shutdown” is a cynical joke. Perhaps Congress is the branch of government that ought to be furloughed, since it appears to be little more than an over-heralded debating society, giving the illusion of representation.

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.

This article has 9 comments
  • Paul 07.10.2013 11:01 AM

    It is unbelievable the amount of money this government waste! You can cut this cost in 1/2 and reach the actual cost it takes to run a government.
    Hey tax payers out there, just continue to trust this enormous government and keep giving them your hard earned money. They have your best interest in mind, right?! Enjoy your life while you can. Sooner or later this will result in total financial collapse of our nation and nothing else will matter.

  • pduffy 07.10.2013 12:50 PM

    The U.S. constitution requires by law, that congress pass a yearly budget, and that the senate, and the president sign the budget, otherwise THERE IS NOT ONE DIME that is legally spent! All of this so-called ‘automatic’ spending is UNCONSTITUTIONAL and grossly ILLEGAL, and IMMORAL! It’s TREASON. Congress has rigged the system so that there is never any political consequences for them to VOTE on entitlement spending, or much of the pork-laden budget, and the black robes sat by and allowed them to trample all over the constitution because the mob of deadbeat democrats wanted it so. They stacked the courts with communists so that the ‘checks and balances’ the founders designed into the system would be eliminated. It’s pretty much complete, individual liberty in America is DEAD. The original constitution is DEAD. If 83% of the spending is on ‘auto-pilot’ what do we need them for? The bureaucrats that operate the MASSIVE federal bureaucracy run the country, and there is NOTHING those paying the bills can do to stop it. The system we have now is WORSE than the tyranny our founders rebelled against in 1776.

  • Paul 07.10.2013 1:05 PM

    Duffy, it is refreshing to read an intelligent comment for a change. I’ve been crying out loud how corrupt this government is and how the American people are asleep while they destroy the greatest nation that has ever existed. The true enemy of the people IS government and religion (FYI, God has nothing to do with it). Once again, history repeats the same stupidity that has been going on since mankind has been around. And we still have not learned our lesson. It has nothing to do with being a liberal or a conservative; it has ALL to do with saving our nation from corrupt government.

  • Karolyn 07.10.2013 7:17 PM

    Social Security, Medicare and Veterans’ benefits should not be put in the same category as these other expenditures. Also, the USPS is a separate entity.

  • JonathonGalt 08.10.2013 3:41 AM

    Social Security and Medicare are actually separate revenue income streams, and as such should be unaffected by a government shutdown, nor should they be considered in any spending cuts as they can continue to be funded fully simply by raising the tax and/or the ceiling applicable to the creation of their respective revenue stream. They are not wealth redistribution programs as are a great and growing number of Federal programs which have been created simply for the purpose of redistributing some of the earnings of one portion of our societies to other portions of our
    societies.
    For all practical purposes this simply allows political candidates/parties to purchase votes, and is has become the most irresponsible way our government has changed since its’ founding.

  • jerome ennis 09.10.2013 7:46 AM

    I see many items in this Automatic Spending that needs to be eliminated entirely and also all of the various agencies that administer these bogus programs that pay out cash to people who pay little or no taxes while soaking those of us who actually work and pay income taxes, social security taxes, medicare taxes, state taxes, etc. while some low income workers receive welfare throughout the year in the form of medicaid, food stamps, subsidized housing, some cash payments, and then at the end of the year after maybe paying in a few hundred dollars to income tax, by using earned income tax creidts, dependents, etc., they get refunds in the thousands of dollars that they quickly squander on flat screen tv’s, Iphones, Lap Tops, alcohol, drugs and other junk that many people who work daily and pay excessive taxes in order to support these deadbeats cannot afford to buy after the government finishes soaking us and also the rest of the year we pay our own rent or mortgage, buy our own food, buy our on health insurance, pay our own utility payments, etc. This is the problem with what we now call a Democracy. The Voters who Contribute Nothing to the Coffers get to Vote for Those Who Will Promise and Deliver the Cash and other stuff the Politicians Promise. And no president or congress has ever been more out of control than the Obama Regime and a congress lead by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. It is time for a Real Change if the USA has any Hope of Surviving. Obama’s Hope and Change is Destroying this nation and our national sovereignty.

  • pervlibertarian 10.10.2013 2:41 AM

    You’re misunderstanding “…but in consequence of appropriations made by law”. Congress made the appropriations, in a form future congresses could not touch. I bow to their foresight regarding the idiots we have in office today.

  • ScorpDaddy 13.11.2013 4:49 PM

    Someone in Congress needs to take a close look at Veteran’s disability benefits paid through the VA. Only Veteran’s who were actually injured as a direct cause of the military should be compensated, including no compensation for any aggravation of pre military injuries or conditions. Not Veterans who have sleep apnea hypertension, heart disease, hemorrhoids, schizophrenia, and many more non-military caused conditions. For a group of people who portend to be so “noble” protecting out lives and liberty, it doesn’t seem very “noble” to be trying to rip off Uncle Sam for as much as possible. These Veteran’s need to deal with it like the rest of us and quit expecting our government to pay you for the rest of your lives for these innapropriate claims. claims that can have the monetary payments increased if they get worse, unlike people who are on SSD. this system is a real farce. Of course no one has the guts to stand up and fight this drain on our coffers because it is such a politically charged topic, and politicians are always worried about getting re-elected instead of doing what is right. Beware people, sooner or later the other shoe will drop and all hell will break loose.

Back to top

Copyright © 2008-2014 NetRight Daily