Budget Priorities


In the United States, we are not just a collection of individuals—we are a society. Our lives, our families, our businesses and our communities depend on a broad structure that supports and allows us to function.

2 percent of your taxes go to preventing war, 37.5 percent go to war

Just two cents of every 2015 income tax dollar went to preventing war — and more than 37 cents went to current and pasts wars. Emily Sajewski / FCNL

Businesses provide jobs, and employers and employees working together generate wealth. At the same time, businesses need functioning schools, health care, research capacities, transportation, and communication systems to prosper and support their customer base. These basic services and structures cannot be provided by individuals, no matter how wealthy.

Through taxes and other revenues, Congress and the president administer trillions of dollars of federal spending. A country’s budget is a black-and-white reflection of its priorities. The United States’ budget reflects a misalignment between our nation’s needs and our government’s spending priorities. The U.S. should do more to support and protect people, and it should spend less money on war and violence.

2015 Budget Breakdown

37.5% Current & past wars:

This includes the Pentagon (Department of Defense) budget and related military programs, such as nuclear weapons production in the Department of Energy, the military portion of the Overseas Contingency Operations fund (OCO), and foreign military assistance (25%); the share of interest on the public debt that is due to past war spending (6%); and veterans’ benefits and other costs of past wars (6%).

28% Health care:

This includes health care for children, elders and families through the Medicaid program, Indian Health, public health services and other programs. It also includes some spending for the Medicare program, although the majority of that program is supported by a separate payroll tax and by premiums paid by participants. (Veterans’ health benefits and medical care for troops and other employees of the Department of Defense are included in the costs of war and past wars.)

14% Income assistance:

This includes spending on programs available to eligible people based on income guidelines. These programs provide food assistance, housing subsidies, unemployment insurance, temporary income supports and energy assistance in order to mitigate some of the enormous income gap between the richest and poorest in our country.

12% General government:

This includes spending on the legislative and judicial branches and agencies that serve an all-government purpose, such as the Departments of the Treasury and Justice and the General Services Administration (3%). This also includes the interest on the public debt not due to spending on past wars (9%).

5% Social programs & supports for the economy:

This includes spending on programs that make commerce possible, including investments in rural and urban development, transportation and agriculture, along with employment, education, child care assistance and community programs.

2.5% Energy, science & the environment:

This includes funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, National Science Foundation, National Aeronautic and Space Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the non-nuclear part of the Department of Energy, most of the Department of the Interior, the Forest Service and the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

2% Preventing war:

This includes the entire State Department (including the diplomatic corps and the U.S. Agency for International Development), support for the United Nations and other international institutions and non-military aid to other countries.

Source Note

FCNL calculations based on actual 2015 expenditures reported by the White House (Office of Management and Budget) in FY2017 documents released February 9, 2016 (Analytical Perspectives, Table 29-1).

This analysis covers the $2,674,290,000,000 “federal fund” budget, which is the spending supported by income taxes, estate taxes, and other general revenues. Not included are trust funds, such as Social Security, Medicare and highway trust funds, which are supported by dedicated revenues. The percentages accurately reflect proportions of the taxes paid on Tax Day; this resource was originally developed for war tax resisters.

For a complete data set, showing how individual budget line items were categorized, please contact Amelia Kegan, amelia@fcnl.org. Due to rounding, percentages may not appear to add up to 100 percent.

This dollar graphic has replaced the long-standing coins chart. Past year data is available on request.