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What is the Total US Government Spending?

In FY 2017, total US government spending, federal, state, and local, is “guesstimated” to be $7.04 trillion. Federal spending is budgeted at $4.15 trillion; state spending is “guesstimated” at $1.72 trillion; local spending is “guesstimated” at $1.87 trillion.

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Estimated FY 2017 Spending
for Governments in the United States



In fiscal year 2017 the governments in the United States are expected to spend about 36.5 percent of Gross Domestic Product. Most of the money goes for health care, education, pensions, defense, and welfare programs. Health care spending is split mainly between federal and state governments; education spending occurs mainly at the local government level; pension spending is primarily the federal government’s Social Security program and the states’ government employee pension programs.

Government Spending: Federal, State, Local

Governments in the US will spend $7.0 trillion in 2017.

Table 2.01: Total Spending in 2017

In fiscal 2017 the federal government estimates spending will be $4.1 trillion, of which $0.7 trillion will be transferred to states and local governments. State spending for 2017 is "guesstimated" by usgovernmentspending.com at $1.7 trillion and local government spending is "guesstimated" by usgovernmentspending.com at $1.9 trillion.

Total spending at all levels of government in the United States is "guesstimated" by usgovernmentspending.com to be $7.0 trillion in 2017.


Government Spending: the Big Picture

The four big functions each cost about one trillion dollars a year.

Table 2.02: Total Spending Breakdown FY 2017

Where does all the money go? It is really quite simple. Governments at all levels, federal, state, and local, spend about $1.3 trillion a year on pensions, including Social Security and government employee pensions. Governments spend about $1.6 trillion a year on health care, principally Medicare and Medicaid. Governments spend about $1.1 trillion a year on education at all levels, principally at the local government level. The federal government spends about $0.9 trillion a year on defense, including the Departments of Defense, State, and Veterans Affairs. Governments spend $0.5 trillion on welfare programs other than Medicaid. All other spending amounts to $1.8 trillion, including interest on the national debt. The grand total of all the spending is $7.0 trillion.

Government Spending: the Details

About 60 percent of government spending comes from the federal government; About 24 percent is spent by state governments and 26 percent by local governments. About 10 percent of total spending is transferred from the federal government to state and local governments.

Table 2.03: Total Spending Details FY 2017

The federal government is budgeted to spend $4.15 trillion in FY 2017, of which about $0.7 trillion is transferred to state and local governments. Federal pension programs, including Social Security, will cost about $1,033 billion; federal health care programs, including Medicare and the federal share of Medicaid, will cost $1,173 billion; defense, including the Departments of Defense and State, and the Veterans Administration, will cost about $854 billion. Federal welfare costs will come in at $387 billion, and federal education programs will cost about $121 billion. Interest on the national debt is estimated at $303 billion.

State governments are "guesstimated" by usgovernmentspending.com to spend about $1.72 trillion in FY 2017. The biggest expenditure will be $626 billion for health care, mainly on Medicaid partially funded by the federal government. Next up are education at $311 billion and employee pensions at $252 billion. Welfare is expected to cost about $125 billion and transportation $128 billion.

Local governments are "guesstimated" by usgovernmentspending.com to spend about $1.87 trillion in FY 2017. The biggest expenditure is $699 billion for education. Next comes police and fire protection at $178 billion, health care at $164 billion, and transportation at $158 billion.

Pie Chart of Total US Government Spending

Although the four big government programs — pensions, health care, education, and defense — each cost about a trillion dollars a year they are distributed unequally between the levels of government.

Chart 2.04: Total Spending Details

Total government spending in the United States, including federal, state, and local governments, is expected to total $7.04 trillion in 2017. The total features five major functions. Of the total spending, health care takes a 22 percent share, pensions a 19 percent share, education a 15 percent share, defense a 12 percent share. All other functions, including interest on the debt, take 32 percent of spending.

Pie Chart of Federal Government Spending

Chart 2.05: Federal Spending Details

Federal spending is budgeted at $4.15 trillion for FY 2017, and includes four major functions. Health care, principally Medicare and Medicaid, takes a 28 percent share; pensions, principally Social Security, take a 25 percent share; defense, including foreign policy, veterans, and foreign aid, is 21 percent of spending; and welfare takes 9 percent of spending. All other spending, including interest on the national debt, takes 17 percent of federal spending.

Notice that education is not a major item in federal spending.

Pie Chart of State Government Spending

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Chart 2.06: State Spending Details

State government spending, as "guesstimated" by usgovernmentspending.com, will total about $1.72 trillion in FY 2017, and features five major functions. Health care spending takes 36 percent of spending, education has an 18 percent share, state government pensions at 15 percent share, welfare at an 7 percent share, and transportation at a 7 percent share. All other spending takes a 16 percent share of state government spending.

Pie Chart of Local Government Spending

Chart 2.07: Local Spending Details

Local government spending, as "guesstimated" by usgovernmentspending.com, will total about $1.87 trillion on FY 2017, and features two major functions. Biggest program by far is education, K-12 schools, taking a full 37 percent of local spending, followed by protection — police, fire and justice system — at 10 percent. Then come health care at 9 percent and transportation at 8 percent. All other programs, at 36 percent of total, each take less than 7 percent of local government spending.

Spending 101 Courses

Spending | Federal Debt | Revenue | Defense | Welfare | Healthcare | Education
Debt History | Entitlements | Deficits | State Spending | State Taxes | State Debt


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Spending Data Sources

Spending data is from official government sources.

Gross Domestic Product data comes from US Bureau of Economic Analysis and measuringworth.com.

Detailed table of spending data sources here.

Federal spending data begins in 1792.

State and local spending data begins in 1890.

State and local spending data for individual states begins in 1957.

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Next Data Update

> Federal Budget FY18

> data update schedule.

Data Source

Source: CBO Long-Term Budget Outlook .

> data sources for other years
> data update schedule.

FY18 Budget Blueprint Released

On March 16, 2018 the Trump administration issued a Budget Blueprint outlining proposed changes to "discretionary" spending for Fiscal Year 2018. The following table shows the major changes to Budget Authority in excess of $2 billion per agency.

AgencyFY18 Change
in $ billion
Agriculture-4.7
Defense+52.4
Education-9.2
Health and
Human Services
-12.6
Homeland
Security
+2.8
HUD-6.2
Justice-4.0
Labor-2.5
State and Intl Aid-10.9
Veterans+4.4
EPA-2.6

Because usgovernmentspending spending data is based on Historical Table 3.2, it shows spending by function rather than by agency. Until Table 3.2 is published in the final version of the FY18 budget we cannot exactly predict how the Table 3.2 numbers will change at the subfunction level.

But we have applied the Budget Blueprint budget authority changes into the budgeted FY18 outlays by guessing the application of agency level changes to subfunction changes to give a rough feeling of what the Trump changes look like. You can check out what is going on here or here.

The numbers will change when the final FY18 federal budget numbers come out.

Spend links

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