Congress will debate and delay, and posture and pontificate over the federal budget and government spending in the coming weeks. All the while, the bluster and bloviating will be over a small and diminishing share of the budget.
Meanwhile, the spending that will contribute the most to rising national debt will continue unfettered. The fact is most spending is essentially on autopilot. And the present course is unsustainable.
With President Trump finally submitting his full budget request for fiscal year 2018, the focus now shifts to Congress to agree on a budget resolution and set the spending levels for the coming year. Recent history strongly suggests that lawmakers will have a very difficult time coming to agreement and the slow start to the process means it is very likely that they will run up against the September 30 deadline to prevent a government shutdown.
While this is nothing new, it may be surprising to know that less than a third of government spending is really at stake in this debate. That’s because the spending that must be approved annually is dwarfed by the spending that requires no annual sanction. Learn more about the government spending process.
Spending that essentially is on autopilot – most notably Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and interest payments on the debt – constitutes the lion’s share of current spending and will account for most of the growth in spending going forward, which will drive the debt upward. See more on the budget and spending .
Autopilot spending is on an unsustainable route. In fact, by 2029 such spending will equal 100 percent of all federal revenue. That means that all other spending will add to deficits.
Our new infographic illustrates the size and expected growth of autopilot spending.
Policymakers must stop ignoring the largest and fastest growing parts of the budget. Getting autopilot spending on a sustainable course is critical to fixing the debt.
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