Romano: $3.15 Trillion Not #Shutdown
One surprising aspect of the partial federal government “shutdown” is how small a 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 three out of every four 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.
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Robert Romano is the Senior Editor of Americans for Limited Government.