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Thank you, PolitiFact!

2 ½ min

If you’re familiar with the federal government’s budgeting process and you follow social media, your head has probably exploded at least a dozen times when you see misleading information circulated as truth. Of course, countering it every time is exhausting. Who wants to take the time to go dig up the budget, make the images, and then explain it all?

Thankfully, PolitiFact has done the fact-checking and got it right, so now you can just bookmark a link and use it as needed.

The issue that PolitiFact had to weigh in on is how much of the government’s spending actually goes to the military verses various programs that could be called health and human services. As PolitiFact reports, the meme being proven false is being used as an attack against Republicans. While there are plenty of reasons for people (Republicans or not) to criticize Republicans, the meme is simply wrong on this point: 

You see, federal spending includes two categories: Discretionary and Non-Discretionary. The former spending category is up for negotiation while the latter is mandated. The chart above is referring to discretionary spending. What it fails to include in federal spending are actually the largest categories, Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, as well as payments for the national debt. In fact, according to PolitiFact, the chart above only accounts for a third of federal spending!

Here are the percentages of real spending which PolitiFact accurately reported: 

That changes the picture and any debate over federal spending, doesn’t it?

As PolitiFact puts it:

“More problematic, though, is that the pie chart ignores mandatory spending. About 60 percent of all federal spending is considered mandatory, with 34 percent considered discretionary and 6 percent devoted to interest. In other words, the chart, despite referring broadly to ‘federal spending,’ only counts about one-third of federal spending -- the discretionary part.

If we look at all of federal spending, the picture changes:

• The ‘military’ share, including spending on homeland security, shrinks from 57 percent to 16 percent.

• The ‘health’ share zooms from 5 percent to 26 percent, once expenditures on Medicare and Medicaid are counted.

• Social Security -- a category not even included in the pie chart now circulating on social media feeds -- rises from 0 percent to 25 percent.

• Food and agriculture quadruples from 1 percent to 4 percent due to the inclusion of food stamps, a mandatory program, and agricultural income and price supports.

Calculating it this way severely undercuts the graphic’s message. Rather than the federal budget being dominated by the military, the budget is actually dominated by spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. In fact, the ratio of military spending to food and agriculture spending in the full budget is 4-to-1, rather than 57-to-1.”

Get the link for the PolitiFact piece here. Bookmark it. You’ll need it.

Devin Foley

Devin Foley

Devin is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Charlemagne Institute, which operates Intellectual Takeout, Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and the Alcuin Internship. He is a graduate of Hillsdale College where he studied history and political science. Prior to co-founding Charlemagne Institute, he served as the Director of Development at the Center of the American Experiment, a state-based think tank in Minnesota.

Devin is a contributor to local and national newspapers, a frequent guest on a variety of talk shows, such as Minneapolis' KTLK and NPR's Talk of the Nation, and regularly shares culture and education insights presenting to civic groups, schools, and other organizations. In 2011, he was named a Young Leader by the American Swiss Foundation.

Devin and his wife have been married for eighteen years and have six children. When he's not working, Devin enjoys time with family while also relaxing through reading, horticulture, home projects, and skiing and snowboarding.

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