Putting things into perspective: rescaling the US budget down to a family budget level

Posted: May 5, 2009 in society

\sqrt{100 \hbox{million}:3} \approx 5770

Mathematical luminary Terry Tao embarked on an interesting small exercise: using the Mankiw rescaling (converting U$100m to US$3), he put large economic numbers into perspective. In this context, the total federal US budget revenue for 2008 would become US$75,700, total spending would be US$89,500 with Defense gobbling up US$14,300, while education would just get US$1,680. The budget deficit would be US$13,800 with additional appropriations (not included in regular budget) added, including the costs for Iraq & Afghanistan calculated at US$5,640.

I’m not sure which conclusions Tao would draw; I certainly think it is a concern that already in 2008 (before the latest Obama spending on bank bailouts) the US government already owed to the rest of the world at least 26% of its own revenue. Another disconcerting figure seems to be that total cost for the military (Defense and Iraq/Afghanistan cost) would be 26% of incoming revenue and 22% of total government spending, while education just scores 2.2% and 1.8% respectively.

Other interesting figures are the 2008 bailout package (TARP) coming to a maximum of US$21,000 (28% of revenue), the  October 2008 credit default swap contracts being at least US$1,040,000 (that is the amount that the US government wants to help eliminating through budgetary measures – at least 14 times the government’s own revenue!), and the US trade deficit of U$21,000 (28% compared to revenue). The conclusion I would draw from these figures is that I certainly would not run my family budget this way!

For Terry Tao’s full The federal budget, rescaled article click on this hyperlink.

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