The federal budget is an expression of our country's values. Where we choose to spend and at what levels, how and who we tax, and the borrowing we engage in to make up the difference between the two, all reflect the reality of national priorities.
The federal budget consists of two types of spending. Discretionary spending (national defense, education, transportation) is determined through the annual appropriations process in Congress. Mandatory spending (Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment insurance) essentially runs on autopilot under formulas set in law. Interest payments on the national debt are also considered mandatory. Since the 1960's, mandatory spending has been growing as a portion of the budget and is projected to continue on that path.