How Does the Federal Government Spend?

Most all of us at one time or another have complained or at least wondered about how the feds spend our hard earned tax money. We’ve all heard irritating stories about the Pentagon spending absurd amounts on mundane objects (here is an old LA Times article from 1986 on the topic of overspending in the Pentagon in particular mentioning a $7,622 coffee maker), pondered how the president spends his vacation time or had concerns about some other use of the public coffers that may be wasteful. After all, we don’t want our money spent frivolously or for some unethical government contractor to take advantage of such a huge, difficult to manage entity as the budget of the United States.

That’s where www.usaspending.gov/  comes in. As billed by the site itself: “USAspending.gov is the publicly accessible, searchable website mandated by the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 to give the American public access to information on how their tax dollars are spent.”

pic 1
Masthead

So you can check on this information in multiple ways. As one example, you may see how much money is spent in the state of Tennessee.

pic 2
State of Tennessee

It can be broken down in various ways as well. As can be seen here Davidson County receives well more than 1/3 of the just over $40 billion allocated to the state for Fiscal Year 2017, with a figure of $15,351,958,126. The next county, Shelby, receives $1,620,940,881, and is the only other county to receive $1 Billion or more.

pic 3
TN County Breakdown

 

 

There are many more ways to look up information beyond state by state breakdown. This site is just waiting for your curious fingers to enter new search terms or click on the numerous links on the site.

All you ever wanted to know about government spending but were too afraid to ask.

Ex Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has opened a new site called https://www.usafacts.org/, which describes itself as “a new data-driven portrait of the American population, our government’s finances, and government’s impact on society.” It claims to be a non-partisan site that provides a public service.

Mr. Ballmer sees this endeavor as philanthropy, and also takes it seriously as an academic venture. The site has a team made up of experts from Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), the Penn Wharton Budget Model, and Lynchburg College that, the claim goes “help keep our data accurate and unbiased”. The site not only uses only numbers and data directly from government sources, but has a policy of information only: no judgments, no opinions—just the facts. They also intend to “engage a prominent accounting firm” to audit their processes and controls used to present the information on the site.

So, let’s say you want to see a breakdown of what was spent in 2014. You start with this screen:

1

Once you decide to be curious about something else you follow the budget, which the site breaks down into categories found in the Constitution: Establish Justice and Ensure Domestic Tranquility, Provide for the Common Defense, Promote the General Welfare and Secure the Blessings of Liberty to Ourselves and Our Posterity.

2Choose which category that interests you, and you’ll be taken to the next screen that gives more detailed information. So, under “Promote the General Welfare” I chose “Health”. It gives raw numbers on the spending in that area,

3

Then I can click to find an even more detailed breakdown of health spending.

4

This site looks to become a go-to for seekers of accurate, helpful information on how the U.S. government spends our tax money.

If you’re interested in further reading NPR did a article on this site that may be found here.

Helpful Medical Links That Go Deeper

Need medical information that goes deeper than or covers areas other than those covered by WebMD.com and the like?  Here are some more specialized sites for your consideration.

Should Your Child See a Doctor?

If you’re worried about your child’s health, this site will likely help you make a decision as to what to do next.  From the site:  “These guidelines (topics) are intended to help you determine how sick your child is and if you need to call your child’s doctor. Their second purpose is to help you treat your child at home when it is safe to do so.” (Emphasis mine)

Medline Plus

You may already be familiar with Medline Plus, as it is similar to WebMd and other health portals.  The distinction with this site is it is directly funded and informed by the federal government.  From the site: “Health professionals and consumers alike can depend on it for information that is authoritative and up-to-date. MedlinePlus has extensive information from the National Institutes of Health and other trusted sources on over 975 diseases and conditions. There are directories, a medical encyclopedia and a medical dictionary, health information in Spanish, extensive information on prescription and nonprescription drugs, health information from the media, and links to thousands of clinical trials. MedlinePlus is updated daily and can be bookmarked at the URL: https://medlineplus.gov/. There is no advertising on this site, nor does MedlinePlus endorse any company or product.”

The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of John Hopkins Medical Center publishes a media center with videos and podcasts.  From the site: “Your video channel for cancer learning is a click away. Tune to the Kimmel Cancer Center’s YouTube channel to learn about the latest discoveries in cancer and education on cancer topics, including clinical trials, caregiving, finances, and social security. New videos are added periodically, so subscribe to the channel for instant updates.”

Foodborne Illness

Did you know that each year 1 in 6 of us will get sick due to contamination in something we eat or drink? Knowing how to avoid and/or treat these illnesses is important. The CDC is here to help. The CDC is a vast federal organization with a vast website, so it may be daunting for some.  The site on Foodborne Illness is full of helpful information and easy to use. From the site: “Foodborne illness (sometimes called ‘foodborne disease,’ ‘foodborne infection’, or ‘food poisoning’) is a common, costly—yet preventable—public health problem. Each year, 1 in 6 Americans gets sick by consuming contaminated foods or beverages. Many different disease-causing microbes, or pathogens, can contaminate foods, so there are many different foodborne infections. In addition, poisonous chemicals, or other harmful substances can cause foodborne diseases if they are present in food.”

Anatomy Atlases

The Anatomy Atlases are no joke.  Created by Dr. Ronald A. Bergman, Ph.D., who has taught anatomy at eminent universities for decades, it is a comprehensive and detailed anatomy atlas for use by doctors, students and various medical professionals, that can also be perused and used by laypeople. It lists as its mission: “To educate patients, healthcare providers, and students in a free and anonymous manner; For the purpose of improving patients’ care, outcome, and lives; Using current, authoritative, trustworthy health information; While serving as a platform for research into the challenges facing world-wide information distribution.”

Further, its goals are to “Curate a comprehensive digital library of anatomy information for patients and providers, Maximize the impact of this digital library by enhancing awareness among potential users at local, national, and international levels, Ensure an optimal educational experience through simplicity and clarity in design, and Lead the way to a better understanding of digital libraries through a process of on-going evaluation.”

Despite its free status this may be the most helpful, informative site out there concerning Anatomy.

Climate Change Indicators in the United States

https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-08/documents/climate_indicators_2016.pdf

The Environmental Protection Agency has put out a report detailing the effects of climate change on the nation. “Climate Change Indicators in the United States” “partners with more than 40 data contributors from various government agencies, academic institutions, and other organizations to compile a key set of indicators related to the causes and effects of climate change”, from the site. Previous editions of the report can be found here.

The report includes greenhouse gases, ocean temperature changes, weather anomalies, snow and ice melt, health effects, and ecosystem effects. Number of cases of lyme’s disease and west nile virus in the U.S. are also included. There is no index in the back of the book, but the table of contents is very inclusive.

Statistic Brain

http://www.statisticbrain.com/

Statistic Brain Research Institute provides statistics on all sorts of subjects. Financial, marketing, industry, company, demographic, geographic, crime, health, food, people, sports, media, technology, educational, and government are just some of the main header statistics that are listed. There are more subject listings under each heading. Or, a Google-like search box is also provided to do a statistics search. An example of a search for government information provides the Presidential Election Voter Statistics. The source of the information, a research date, a years’ range coverage (1952-2012), and turnout demographics with percentages are listed.

State Constitutions

http://www.stateconstitutions.us/index.html

This site provides the state constitutions read aloud for people who do not see well or are visually impaired. Under the State Constitutions header, click on “The Constitutions”. On the left side of the page, you can click the state that you are looking for. Click “submit”. A written narrative of the constitution, along with the time blocks are listed on the page. Click on the speaker symbol on the right side of the page to hear the specific state constitution.

Further down on the page of “The Constitutions” is a place called, “Monitor the Constitutions”. This is a newsfeed that shows current stories from around the country about how the constitution of different states are being amended or challenged.

Drinking and Driving among High School Students, 1991-2011

http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/TeenDrinkingAndDriving/index.html

This report from CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Vital Signs provides statistics on teenage drivers aged 16 and above. The years 1991-2011 are reviewed. Statistics include the percentage of teens who drink and drive, by race, age, and state. The full report lists both state and national statistics. A breakdown between male and females who drink and drive is also listed in the full report.