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Numbers at War
What percentage of its federal budget will the US spend on militarily-related items in 2004? It seems like that should be a simple question to answer. After all, numbers are precise. 2 + 2 always equals 4. Can't we just add up military expenses, then divide by the total budget amount? Is it possible there could be more than one answer?
Judge for yourself.
Put these pages to work
- how one chooses to categorize the individual items that make up the dividend in the percentage calculation
For example, is a soldier's retirement pay a military expenditure, or is it a direct payment to an individual (like Social Security)?
- what one chooses to include in the total budget number that makes up the divisor in the percentage calculation
Income taxes are used to pay for virtually all non-trust fund federal government expenditures. Therefore, it is logical to exclude the trust funds (Social Security, Medicare, various retirement funds, etc.) from the divisor when asking how our income tax dollars are spent. On the other hand, non-income taxes fund the trust funds. Therefore if one is looking to see how all tax dollars are spent, one should probably include trust fund expenditures.
I should note that prior to FY 1967, trust fund income and expenses were excluded from the types of federal government budget calculations discussed on this page. It is my understanding that the Johnson Administration chose to begin including them as a way to mask the increasing expense of the Vietnam war. As you can see from the pie charts at the top of this page, including trust fund figures makes the military budget appear smaller.
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original web posting: Tuesday, April 30, 2002
last modified: Friday, March 28, 2008