The Growth of Discretionary and Mandatory Spending

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The U.S. government’s spending has grown by leaps and bounds over the last five and half decades. Will Geary, aka “TransitMapper”, developed a pretty cool side-by-side visualization of the inflation-adjusted growth of the federal government’s major discretionary and mandatory spending programs, which gives an idea of how much the magnitude and share of that spending has grown from 1962 through the present year, as well as how much they are projected to grow through 2023.

Discretionary spending represents expenditures that the U.S. Congress votes upon every year, such as funding for the U.S. military, government agencies, et cetera. Mandatory spending covers programs that the U.S. Congress has set up to be automatically funded, such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Affordable Care Act subsidies, and also net interest payments to the people and entities who have loaned money to the U.S. government.


Craig Eyermann is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and the creator of the Government Cost Calculator at

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