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What portion of all federal spending is for social programs, such as healthcare, income security, education, housing, and recreation?

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In 2019 (latest data), 62% of federal spending was for social programs. This share has increased from 21% in 1960. Politicians and journalists often understate spending on social programs by reporting federal budget breakdowns that exclude all permanently funded "mandatory" programs. This omits the majority of federal spending and major social programs like Food Stamps, Medicare, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, and Social Security. Some claim that SS is "not government spending" because it "saves" people's money and returns it to them. However, SS is not a savings plan but a social program that provides benefits to the aged and disabled mainly by taxing people who are currently working. The original Social Security Act of 1935 designed the program in that manner, and since at least 1958, the Social Security Administration has categorized SS as a "social welfare program." This differs from "means-tested welfare" programs, which are commonly called "welfare."

DocumentationFederal Spending by FunctionMandatory ProgramsSocial Security Finances1958 SS Publication




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