Entitlements to Dominate Spending

The Editors | February 29, 5:10 pm

Government spending on Social Security and Medicare combined is projected to outstrip all discretionary spending in fiscal 2013, according to forecasts made in President Obama's budget request earlier this month.

In the 1990s, outlays for the two big entitlement programs briefly surpassed discretionary spending, largely because of a cutback in defense operations at the end of the Cold War. This time, Medicare and Social Security costs are expected to keep climbing, as caps set by the August debt limit law (PL 112-25) constrain the discretionary side of the budget for the next decade.

Such a shift in the balance between discretionary and entitlement programs would not only dilute the effect of the spending caps agreed to in August, it would also mean that congressional appropriators may find themselves with jurisdiction over an increasingly small share of government spending.

Read more at CQ.com: Rise in Entitlement Spending Draws New Focus

About the Data

The data comes from OMB’s historical tables. Table 8.1 breaks down outlays, or spending, by “Budget Enforcement Act category,” a reference to the 1990 law that made distinctions between discretionary and mandatory spending. Table 8.5, a more detailed breakdown of mandatory programs, is the source of the Social Security and Medicare figures, which together make up the yellow line in the graphic.