This week’s chart is an updated comparison of the different measurements of the unemployment rate from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). It includes new data on the official and alternative unemployment measurements for January 2015. The widely reported official unemployment rate, which remains the primary measure of labor market performance, is not the most realistic representation of the current state of the economy, because it fails to capture, among other things, individuals who have simply stopped looking for work. The limited perspective on the labor market offered by the official unemployment rate is readily apparent when compared to alternative measures of unemployment.
While the president’s budget proposal is unlikely to go anywhere because Republicans control Congress, it doesn’t change the underlying reality that the long-term budget picture remains bleak because spending will outstrip revenues unless policymakers change course. That means cutting the size and scope of the federal government—not increasing taxes.
If current laws stay in place, spending for Social Security and the major health-care programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act, will grow faster than the economy. As a rule of thumb, a government’s spending should never grow faster than the economy that’s supposed to pay for it. (It’s worth noting that the CBO lowered its projection of economic growth going forward.) All of this suggests that, rather than celebrating a short-term respite from $1 trillion deficits, we should be even more concerned about reining in the size and scope of the federal government.
Revenues from the gas tax are dedicated to the federal Highway Trust Fund for spending on highway and transit projects. But this revenue, along with the revenue from other smaller dedicated taxes, hasn’t been enough to cover the annual amounts authorized by Congress in recent years, forcing policymakers to transfer more than $60 billion from general funds to the Highway Trust Fund since 2008.
When it comes to funding national defense, policymakers tend to ignore war costs so an accurate assessment on the burden on taxpayer of overseas military ventures is increasingly important as pressure mounts to increase the Pentagon’s regular “base” budget.
This week’s charts use data from the Congressional Research Service and the Government Accountability Office to display total federal cybersecurity spending required by the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA) with the total number of reported information security incidents of federal systems from 2006 to 2013.
This week’s chart presents improper payments made by the thirteen programs that the Office of Management and Budget has labeled “high-error.” The chart ranks transfer programs that allocate at least $750 million in payments from those with the lowest improper payments to those with the highest. The chart also displays the total improper-payment rates as a percentage of total program outlays for each program.
This week’s charts use data from a National Public Radio compilation of public Department of Defense records of grants issued to state and local law enforcement bodies through its Excess Property Program, also known as DoD 1033. The charts display the total value of all known grants to municipalities in real 2013 dollars along with the total value and number of mine-resistant and combat vehicles distributed from 2006 to April 2014.
Policymakers need to reconsider whether the nation’s best interests are served by the current expansive global military presence. Limiting American military presence overseas would not only benefit the nation, it would also help control runaway DoD personnel costs.
In a Capitol Hill Campus event, David Primo, Associate Professor at the University of Rochester and senior scholar for the Mercatus Center, and Patrick Louis Knudsen, a former long-time policy director for the House Budget Committee, held a discussion on the congressional budget process.