What is the source of data in the Budget Explorer?

Federal budget data are obtained from the Public Budget Database of the White House Office of Management and Budget. Deficit, surplus, and debt figures are obtained from OMB's Historical Tables.

This is the President's proposed Federal Budget for the US government's fiscal year, which begins on October 1. The President's budget is usually sent to Congress in February, for the fiscal year beginning the following October.

In most years, this website is updated by the end of March. A change of administrations can delay the release of budget data by a couple of months.

Why does the budget contain negative numbers?

This confuses most people. However, in the interest of accuracy this site uses the numbers as they are published by OMB. And that's the way they do it.

Outlays include negative items such as receipts from investments and interest-bearing accounts. Receipts include negative items such as refunds to taxpayers. In both cases, OMB and other sources use negative numbers rather than moving these items to the other side of the budget.

Negative numbers are not used in calculating percentages in the pie charts. Calculating without negative numbers enables direct comparison of expenses. As the pie chart shows, we spend almost as much on Interest as we do on Defense.

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What are FHI, FSMI, FDI, and FOASI?

Medicare includes two major programs, the Federal Hospital Insurance (FHI) fund and the Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance (FSMI) fund.

Similarly, Social Security includes two major programs, the Federal Disability Insurance (FDI) fund and the Federal Old Age and Survivors Insurance (FOASI) fund.

These abbreviations are used in both Receipts and Outlays portions of the budget.

Isn't Social Security separate from the rest of the budget?

Social Security is a retirement trust fund. By design, it is presently running a surplus, building up money to pay benefits when the "baby boom" generation retires.

Some visitors to this site have suggested that Social Security should be treated separately from the rest of the budget. However, Social Security is not treated separately by the government. Instead it is used to pay current expenses.

How much do we spend on the war?

The costs of war are split between agencies in the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the Department of Veterans' Affairs, and other departments.

In March 2009, the Government Accountability Office estimated the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had cost $808 billion. In May 2009, the Congressional Research Service estimated the cost at $864 billion.

The final costs of both wars depends on how long the troops remain; how much we spend caring for wounded veterans; the impact on our economy; and other factors. In 2008, Bilmes and Stiglitz projected these costs at $3 trillion.

Where can I find more information on the Federal Budget?

The White House Office of Management and Budget is the source of data for the Budget Explorer. OMB publishes complete details of each year's Federal Budget, explanatory materials, and historical tables.

The Congressional Budget Office was established to provide Congress with non-partisan budget information. The CBO site contains a variety of publications and budget estimates.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is a non-profit center for research and analysis of state and Federal fiscal issues.

The Concord Coalition is a non-profit organization that explains Federal Budget problems and proposes constructive solutions. The Concord site provides information on budget and entitlement programs and maintains a comprehensive list of budget-related sites.

Where can I find more information on the National Debt?

The Bureau of the Public Debt is the government agency responsible for management of the National Debt. The Bureau's site includes a calculation of the current National Debt to the penny.

Michael Hodges' Grandfather Report presents beautiful charts and a wealth of information from a grandfather concerned about the long-term effects of the National Debt.

The Gross National Debt
ZFacts.com presents the facts in a compelling manner -- and provides a cool National Debt Clock.
How can I teach others about the Federal Budget and the National Debt?

The folks at ozline.com have written an interactive WebQuest on Democracy and the National Debt. This site incorporates the Budget Explorer into a lesson plan for classroom use.

The PBS Kids Democracy Project provides another lesson plan on the National Debt.

The National Council for the Social Studies provides resources for social studies educators including lesson plans and links to related sites.

The Economic Education Website provides a collection of resources for teaching economics.

The American Economic Association also sponsors a collection of resources for economists.

The Michigan Teacher Network provides a variety of resources to support educators in the use of technology.

How can I improve this site?

This site was made possible through support and constructive criticism from Chuck, Mary, Diana, Tom, Marc, Richard, and many others.

If you liked this site, you may also enjoy Deterrence or Defense?, a simulation of ballistic missile defense.

If you have a suggestion to improve this site, please let us know! Be sure to edit the email address; it's obscured to fool the mailbots. Thanks for your feedback!

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