How much does the Federal Government actually spend?

And how much does it actually take in?

These questions are not quite as easy to answer as one might assume. After all, “income” minus “outgo” equals “surplus/(deficit)”, right? “Eh!! Wrong answer, Hans”, as Bruce Willis quipped once-upon-a-time. And when it comes to money – or most anything else – our fearless leaders and the legions of their minions seem genetically incapable of giving unambiguous answers or presenting data in a straightforward fashion. While digging around in the federal data mines, I even came across one site that claims to be the place to come for officially-guaranteed accurate information. I guess not all federal bureaucrats can be trusted to check their outputs and postings. But why are these two questions not easy to answer?

Well, turns out that the budget spreadsheet that says “Outlays” isn’t just outlays. It also has things called “Offsets.” Offsets are negative outlays. Got that? Some, I don’t think all, are real money, such as “Undistributed Offsetting Receipts” that totaled $268b in 2010 alone and includes such items offshore-drilling royalties.

To get a handle on what the “real” outlays were, I sorted the spreadsheet I got from from the gov’ment by the line totals for the years 2001 through 2012, tossed out all those lines with naught but zeros, and split the spreadsheet to separate outlays from offsets. I could now individually resort both spreadsheets by Agency, Bureau, or whatever, to determine totals and subtotals by the category of my choosing. Viola! Now we’re getting somewhere.

To ensure that I hadn’t made an egregious error during the course of these gymnastics,  I checked my spreadsheet totals against the summary information directly posted by the Feds. This exercise, along with the federal debt levels for the years 2001 through 2010, are shown in the following spreadsheet, which you can view directly by clicking on the link:

Expenditures & Debt (updated & corrected 2011.07.22)

So, I’m confidant that I now have the numbers correctly sorted and separated for your convenient viewing and study. Getting this done, after inconveniently confusing myself, was necessary before proceeding to the next step of comparing and analyzing the absolute and relative levels of expenditures since FY 2001. Hence the delay in getting this post up describing my massaging of the budget spreadsheets.

More later.

Ciao, Dennis

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