Friday, April 24, 2009

New Home Page

We've created a new home page for

Why? Because is not just for policy wonks but for ordinary Americans concerned about where their money goes.

The new home page features three charts and a small table about government spending, federal, state, and local, in the United States:

  • A bar chart of total government spending in the US centering on the current year
  • A pie chart showing how federal, state, and local spending divide up the spending pie
  • A pie chart showing the division of the economy into private sector and public sector
  • A table showing total government spending and debt in the US over five years

If you like, you can copy the charts and save them on your own computer.

But what if you are a conservative and you like the old ways at What if you like a comforting wall of numbers instead of a bunch of charts? No problem. Just click here and you’ll get to the “classic” home page.

On the main menu across the top of every page, we now have the following tabs:

  • HOME - the new home page
  • NUMBERS - the “classic” home page
  • CHARTS - the time-series chart page (also has download feature)
  • BUDGET - headline charts on the current federal budget
  • FEATURE - a fact sheet for Tea Party enthusiasts
  • DOWNLOAD - the gateway to data downloading at

If you’d like to comment on this change, please use the comments section below, or the Leave a Comment link in the right column.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New "Tea Party" Page

The "Tea Party" movement has appeared out of nowhere in the past two months. Its principal concern seems to be taxes and a fear about what the huge deficits and bailouts will do to peoples’ lives.

As a special service has created a Tea Party Fact Sheet with charts and links that provide context for today’s pressing tax and spending issues.

After all, has over a century of spending data available for anyone, anytime, for free.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

New "Quick Chart"

Now has a Quick Chart feature, so you can get a time-series chart of government spending quickly and easily. Here's how it works.

  1. Click the icon when it's displayed on any line of spending.
  2. You'll get a 20-year chart of government spending—federal, state, and local—for that function.

That's it.

Then you can go to work to customize the chart for your needs. For instance:

  • You can add additional data series.
  • You can change the start year and end year.
  • You can switch from displaying “$ billion” to percent of GDP.
  • You can switch from color to black-and-white

Go ahead. It's your choice.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What's Included in "Welfare?"

From Daniela, the following question:
I am trying to figure out what exactly do you include in your "welfare" section. Would you mind elaborating as to what is included in this section?
The simple answer is: Go to and turn on codes. It's one of the settings in the Units dropdown. Or click here.
When you select codes you can see the description of each code by hovering the mouse over the code.
But here are the codes used in the Welfare section, with their descriptions alongside so you don't have to go click here.  The numeric codes, e.g. "603", are federal;  the codes starting with a letter, e.g. "E77", are state and local.

Code Description
603Unemployment compensation
604Housing assistance
605Food and nutrition assistance
609Other income security
B22Federal Intergovernmental - Employment Security Administration
B50Federal Intergovernmental - Housing and Community Development
E22Current Operations - Social Insurance Administration
E50Current Operations - Housing and Community Development
E75Current Operations - Public Welfare, Vendor Payments for Other Purposes
E77Current Operations - Public Welfare Institutions
E79Current Operations - Public Welfare - Other
F22Construction - Social Insurance Administration
F50Construction - Housing and Community Development
F75Construction - Public Welfare, Vendor Payments for Other Purposes
F77Construction - Public Welfare Institutions
F79Construction - Public Welfare - Other
G22Other Capital Outlay - Social Insurance Administration
G50Other Capital Outlay - Housing and Community Development
G75Other Capital Outlay - Public Welfare, Vendor Payments for Other Purposes
G77Other Capital Outlay - Public Welfare Institutions
G79Other Capital Outlay - Public Welfare - Other
J67Assistance and Subsidies – Public Welfare, Federal Categorical Assistance Programs
J68Assistance and Subsidies – Public Welfare, Cash Assistance Programs – Other
Y05Unemployment Compensation - Benefit Payments
Y06Unemployment Compensation - Extended and Special Payments
Y14Workers Compensation - Benefit Payments
Y53Other In Trust - Benefit Payment
You can find out what's in the other categories by clicking here.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

April 4 Update: Corrections and Welfare Issue

On March 22, user James filed the following report:

I have noticed what appears to be an anomaly in the S&L data.. For example, in the "Protection" series, inflation adjusted S&L spending jumps from $55 bn to $118 bn between 1991 and 1992. Healthcare increases from $116 bn to $212 bn. At the same time, welfare spending drops for these years from $208 bn to $114 bn. Most other indicators for S&L spending between 1991 and 1992 also show uncharacteristically large changes, although not of these magnitudes. I suspect there is something wrong with the data for those years.
I found that there are two problems here that arise out of a "seam" in the data, the transition between a fine-grained US Census Bureau dataset that starts in 1992 and the table "State and Local Governments -- Summary of Finances" that appears in the annual Statistical Abstract.
  1. Before 1992, the Census Bureau doesn't list "Corrections." So there's a hole in Protection.
  2. Before 1992, the Census Bureau lumps all welfare--cash, social services, and health care--as Public Welfare. At we like to keep health care separate from welfare. So before 1992 the Welfare category suddenly includes a bunch of health care.
To solve these problems we have made the following changes to
  1. We've created a new data view called "census." This new view arranges data pretty well according to the categorization in the Census Bureau tables published in the annual Statistical Abstract entitled "State and Local Governments -- Summary of Finances" and "All Governments -- Revenue and Expenditure, by Level of Government." This new view will experience a minimum of jumps and "seams."
  2. We've added views to the data-series Chart function. Up till now you could only chart the "default" view.
  3. We've unpacked the census category "Public Welfare" by subtracting the Federal line item for payments to Medicaid vendors. There is data on Medicaid payments to states in the president's budget's historical data Outlays spreadsheet going back to 1962. In the default this line item will be counted as health care. In the "census" view it will be counted as welfare.
  4. We've found a line item for Corrections in the Statistical Abstract "All Governments" table at the state and local levels. This item continues in the pre-1970 Bicentennial Edition, but only at the state level. We have done a bit of massaging and produced a Corrections data series from 1902 to 1991.
  5. We've also cleaned up some holes in the Other Spending category so that the numbers add up properly.
Many thanks to James for identifying the problem at the "seam." Oh yes. We are also adding this blog to the menu system.