Ever Wondered How Much Uncle Sam is Paying Out in Benefits?

| August 6, 2014


Well, I’ll tell you. Or you can go to the source here.

But if you just ate, you might want to think twice about following that link, or reading any further.

Here’s the “bad news” chart:



Yep, that’s right: last year, the total was over $2,007,500,000,000.  For those not used to looking at numbers that large – i.e., damn near everyone – I’ll put that into words for easier comprehension at a glance.

That’s $2.007 trillion. In 2013 alone.

Of that amount, just under 70% – or approximately $1.399 trillion – are benefits that are not means tested whatsoever.  The remainder – approximately $608 billion – is at least sort-of means tested.  I say “sort-of means tested” because means testing for Federal benefits excludes so much income (and items provided in kind) and has so many exceptions that you wonder sometimes why they bother.

Of the $1.4 trillion in non-means-tested benefits that Uncle Sam gives away, IMO only about $65.1 billion appears to be a true earned benefit.  Those would be VA disability compensation and VA educational assistance. Eligibility for the rest seems to require little more than paying taxes and breathing – and I’m not really sure about the “paying taxes” part in many cases.

So, if you ever wondered where all your Federal tax dollars go – this is where about $2.007 trillion of them went last year.

If you’re wondering how much the Federal government spent last year – the Heritage Foundation puts that at approximately $3.455 trillion.  That means that spending for entitlement and income security programs is now eating more than $0.58 of each Federal dollar spent.

So, how much for national defense and vets?  Together, those two consume less than $0.23 out of each Federal dollar spent.

Category: "Your Tax Dollars At Work"

Comments (35)

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  1. DefendUSA says:

    I just knew you’d post on this!! Thanks!!

    We took in 2.7 billion dollars in tax revenues plus or minus and we have 2 Trillion in entitlements? WTF!!!! Does anyone know the last R?
    I did not read the article, yet.

  2. DefendUSA says:

    Spot on, Hondo– Key words- means tested and non-!!!!

    • Hondo says:

      Not really, DefendUSA. “Means testing” for Federal programs is so worthless it’s a joke, and so rife with fraud it’s pathetic. I seriously wonder why we bother.

      If we’d actually put REAL means testing in place – and require proof – I’d agree with you. Until then, no.

      • DefendUSA says:

        Well, I should have had more sarcasm than a few exclamation points…I have been “means” tested and it doesn’t “mean” squat…

  3. Ex-PH2 says:

    Hondo, I don’t give a crap. I’ve paid into Social Security since I was 16 and got my first summer job. I want my effing money back, and that is that.

    Everyone else here has done the same thing.

    What I do resent is that the non-SSRI welfare program alone milks more cash out of those numbers than anything else. Now THAT pisses me off, because (I’m on a rant, here) I pay in (as do the rest of us) and welfare recipients do NOT. That’s where money is wasted.

    • Sparks says:

      Ex-PH2…Thank you and thank you! I agree. There is a time coming in this country where some hard choices will have to be made and they will not be able to be put off any longer. There will be a time when illegals on welfare will have to be sent elsewhere or become legal and go to work. The same for legal Americans who are multi-generational welfare leeches. I despise Lyndon Johnson for a lot of things but most for the “Great Society”. The work ethic in our nation starting going to hell in a hand cart then. Now it is a given among the leeches that they deserve it, have it coming and it is owed to them. I too got a workers permit at 14 years old and have paid into Social Security ever since. The leeches pay nothing in and take everything out, legally and illegally. They lie threw their teeth about income under the table and how many dependents they have at home. They drive to the welfare office here in town in far better cars than I have. Sometimes at the grocery checkout when someone ahead is buying, not quality, substantial, lasting food supplies, but junk of every sort and pull out the SNAP card, I get annoyed then angry. Then for the beer and other things SNAP doesn’t cover they use their EBT card (cash welfare card). Sometimes I want to pause them and say with a smile on my face, “Hey, by the way, you’re welcome.” Then when they ask for what I can say, “for my tax dollars that just bought all your food for you and the Section 8 house you’re probably taking it home to”. But I would then get called all kinds of nasty names in a language I don’t understand or in English and be called a racist or some such. Believe me, they have their defenses and justifications for what they get down pat and can rattle them off like a favorite children’s book. It is ingrained in them. In large part because the state workers are taught to “help them feel good about themselves”. That way they are more compliant and easier to deal with in their case loads and gosh, gee willikers, after all these poor folk need help too ya know. Screw them all and cut their benefits in half next month and tell them the rest is out there at McDonalds, Burger King and Walmart if you want to go earn it. Otherwise, you better start buying rice, beans and staple foods that are healthy and go an long way for the dollar.

      Sorry I am on a rant and tear as well.

      • DefendUSA says:

        I wish I could tell people who whip out that card that I paid for that shit.
        Alas, we were welfare recipients for one year as kids and my brother refused to go shopping for food with my mother because of that and so, not knowing if one is lifer or a person really in need,I zip it.
        Maybe the government can color code for “bad things happen to good people” and teh Moochers? That would be sweet. Black for teh moochers and a yellow for one timers? Works for me.

        • James says:

          I was behind a lady in a large box store that was buying a couple of buggies of junk food. She pulled her EBT / Food stamp card out to pay. She then bought 3 cartons of cigs and paid cash. As she walked away I called “you’re welcome”. She turned and asked for what? I told her for the groceries I just bought her. Boy did that piss her off. She implied I was a racist and left. As I loaded my things I saw her agin in the parking lot as she drove past in her Dodge primp mobile and gave me the finger. It was worth it.

          • Hondo says:

            Back to the future, James. Saw much the same personally over 20 years ago.

            Neither of the ladies involved in that incident were minorities.

          • royh says:

            My coworker volunteers at a church food bank with his wife. He told me about the time a lady in an Escalade pulled up to get her free food. The lady yelled at the wife because she was standing too close to the Escalade with the box of food that was FREE and given in the spirit of compassion. A bit different I guess, but not so different.

      • royh says:

        Oh, come on. If we did some of the things you’re suggesting this country might actually start making things again instead of just selling them. And then what would we do? Upgrade infrastructure to 21st century technology? Rebuild roads and bridges? Work towards energy independence? I mean, for real, some of that sounds like a lot of work.

        Might be some sarcasm in there.

    • Hondo says:

      Sorry, folks. That “I paid into Social Security” argument is BS.

      Nobody ever “paid into” Social Security. What you did was pay taxes as required by law – no different than having income taxes withheld. You weren’t “paying into” any type of retirement saving plan at all.

      The Government lied to everyone about that, starting in about 1935. And they’ve been continuing the lie ever since.

      The plain truth is that Social Security is not and never has been any kind of retirement savings program – although it was sold as such, falsely, from day one. Rather, from day one it was in essence a Ponzi scheme in which those paying today (new entrants/current workers) were paying for benefits paid to current beneficiaries.

      That only works as long as there are a large number of entrants for every beneficiary. That ceased to be the case with Social Security about 30 years ago – which is precisely why Social Security has been going broke, slowly, virtually my entire adult life.

      There is not and never was any “savings” or real assets/investments associated with Social Security. (And please – spare me that crap about “intergovernment debt”; that’s nothing but a stack of IOUs from one part of the Federal government to another. It’s BS.) You do not “own” anything. The Government can change the rules (and cut benefits, or eliminate the program altogether) for Social Security any time it desires to do so by simply passing a law. The SCOTUS confirmed that latter point in Fleming v. Nestor in 1960.

      From day 1, Social Security was nothing but a tax-funded income transfer program designed to move dollars from those who are working to those who have retired. The only reason it was sold as any kind of “insurance” or “retirement plan” was to disguise its true nature – that of being a government entitlement program – to hoodwink the American public.

      Sorry to be harsh, but I have kids and grandkids. We need to face up to reality damned soon, or they’ll be the ones to pay the bill for our 40+ years of living way beyond our means.

      • Stacy0311 says:

        I’ve looked at my “Social Security Statement” that shows how much of my money has been transferred to other people and the ‘estimated’ benefits I’ll receive at certain years and think “Damn, if I’d been allowed to invest that much money over that amount of time, I’d have a pretty good retirement account.”

        • Hondo says:

          Funny you should mention that, Stacy0311:


          I haven’t updated that recently, so it will need updated data from about mid-2013 on for DJIA and Social Security Wage Base and deductions. But otherwise, it should be useable.

          We had our chance to fix this crap in the early 1980s when converting to a private retirement system was seriously discussed. But certain elements in Congress fought that tooth and nail, and we kicked the can down the road instead.

          • DefendUSA says:

            Galveston, Texas beat the government back in 1979-1981 before the loopholes were closed. They all had great returns on the money they invested. Ain’t it a shame that the government is still getting over with this ponzi scheme?

      • Ex-PH2 says:

        OH, hogwash, Hondo. If it’s a tax, you pay into it when you pay your taxes, whether it’s deducted automatically or you do it as a self-employed person.

        You get ‘credit’ for those payments. And I agree, we need to face up to this reality before too long, because those of us who did pay those taxes for decades, and have those statements that say we have ‘credit’ (whatever that means 😛 ) expect those ‘credits’ to be honored.

        Let’s say the US defaults on its debt, as Argentina did a very short while ago. That was an intentional act. Which countries hold the most US debt? China, for starters. After that, just get in line. But let’s say the US government, in order to save a little money, doesn’t pay the intereste it owes or roll those Treasuries over. It simply says “(The Royal) We are not going to pay the interest or redeem those Treasuries.”

        You know as well as I do the entire world financial system would go belly up in the blink of an eye. Then where are we?

        Welfare and buying off countries that hate us both need to stop.

        • Hondo says:

          Actually, Ex-PH2: no. What you were doing was fulfilling the legal requirements to be eligible for Social Security. Why the requirement for a certain number of “credits”? Because (1) the term “Social Security credit” is deliberately misleading, making people think they own something they do not, and (2) because that’s what Federal law says is required.

          You have zero property rights to Social Security; you qualify because the law says you do – and for no other reason. You cannot withdraw your funds, and in general you have no choice as to whether you participate or not. Why? It’s required by law; it’s a tax, not a retirement contribution.

          You get payments based on what Congress says you get – not on the basis of anything you own or “earned”. If Social Security were based on actual contributions, high-wage folks would get a whole lot more and (low-wage folks a whole lot less) from Social Security. It’s not.

          Social Security is a legal entitlement program, supported by tax revenues collected by the Federal government. Calling it anything else just made it easier for the American public to swallow.

          Sorry. But the truth can be painful to read when you’ve been lied to your entire life – as we both have been.

    • SteveS says:

      Hear, hear. I have been paying in to Social Security since I was 17. While I don’t expect to retire on just SSI, I *do* expect that I will get my goddam money back.
      Nothing to add re non-SSRI welfare program leeches, your comment is spot on.

    • MrBill says:

      I just looked at my latest SS statement. I figure that if I live for 5 years after I start taking benefits I’ll have gotten back what I paid in; everything after that is gravy.

  4. john says:

    70% of all food stamp dollars go to families with kids
    43% of people who receive food stamps are white
    40% of the “means tested” goes to medicaid
    why didn’t anyone say “crab legs” ???

  5. E-6 type, 1 ea says:

    A trillion here and a trillion there and eventually you’re talking about a lot of money.

  6. Stacy0311 says:

    But we have to cut defense spending especially military pensions and healthcare costs because that’s causing unsustainable deficits and increasing the national debt.

    sorry I was channeling the standard progressive/liberal/democrat/socialist talking points for a second.

  7. Ex-PH2 says:

    In case anyone in the Budget Office is watching, try this:

  8. FatCircles0311 says:

    Boomer generation is the absolute fucking worst.

    The country will burn before they don’t get theirs. Everything from destroying the culture to destroying the country financially. As long as they get theirs they don’t give two flipping shits about anything else.

    • David says:

      As a boomer (1952) I would love to argue with that…. but as anyone who has seen my posts about my generation before is aware, I have to agree.

      Too, it’s retiring boomers who are the ones starting to get screwed by Social Security – we are the first retirees who will recoup less in payments than we collectively paid into the system. Just an observation. Note that some of us retiring have been paying into the system for north of 40 years… like Hondo says, it’s been a tax and money we have kissed goodbye.

  9. OIF '06-'07-'08 says:

    To really grasp what are government spends in relation to what it takes in, go here, http://www.usdebtclock.org/

    Really scary to watch, especially the bottom numbers which are all unfunded liabilities.

  10. A Proud Infidel®™ says:

    I just wonder how much of that money is already being handed out to illegal lien leeches, let alone con artists…

  11. Rock8 says:

    Well, I’d question the whole thing because whoever made the chart is NOT paying attention to detail. Namely, Railroad Retirement (of which I participate in) is a government agency, but takes NO money from the general fund. The whole thing is user-funded (by employees and their employers), has a dedicated trust-fund that is invested, and sustains 100% of its annuities. Whenever the actuaries detect a blip 30 years out, they raise our contributions to the fund. Participants in SS contribute 15.3% of their income, Railroad Retirement participants contribute 32.3%.

    I am not a supporter of the great dependence of government handouts, but Railroad Retirement does NOT belong in this group.

    • Hondo says:

      (sigh) Hate to be the one to burst yer bubble, Rock8 – but, yeah, Railroad Retirement belongs on the list too.

      Unless I’m very badly misreading published official documentation from the RRB and SSA, you folks working for the railroads have been lied to as well. Railroad retirement pensions are largely tax-supported income transfer programs. There’s a small portion that’s funded from actual investments, but that also is projected to go “belly up” in about 25 years.

      Here’s the short version: railroad retirement pensions are managed by the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB). They are primarily tax-funded, PAYGO benefits – just like Social Security. They are NOT a retirement savings plan like a 401K or IRA. It was established by Federal law, participation is mandatory, and benefits are subject to change at the whim of Congress.

      Unlike Social Security, however, railroad pensions have a relatively tiny fund managed by the RRB that actually has some tangible, private assets. So unlike Social Security, a tiny part of railroad pensions are backed by real assets.

      Railroad retirement pensions have 2 parts: Tier 1 and Tier 2. Tier 1 is provided in lieu of participation in Social Security, and is in fact essentially identical to the Social Security benefit of someone earning the same amount. It is funded on a PAYGO basis by Tier 1 taxes that are the same (6.20% of gross pay – and it’s a TAX, not a contribution) as the OASD tax portion of FICA. That goes to pay current Tier 1 benefits – just like it does in Social Security.

      Because of coordination between the two systems (RRB Tier 1 is in provided lieu of Social Security), a shortage or surplus in RRB Tier 1 receipts results in a transfer from or to the Social Security “trust fund”. Since 1959, the railroad retirement has run a shortage regarding Tier I benefits and has been receiving transfers of money from Social Security to make up the shortage.

      Railroad retirement has additional benefits not available under Social Security: earlier retirement (full retirement at age 60 with 30 years service), and a second pension component (Tier II pensions) designed to mimic a private employer’s pension. These Tier II benefits are primarily funded by an additional tax (no, it’s NOT a voluntary contribution either – it’s also a freaking tax). These additional Tier II taxes (currently a bit over 3% of gross pay) go into a separate trust fund; at least part of this trust fund is invested in actual assets.

      However, Tier II is also a PAYGO system. Current beneficiaries have “first dibs” on all income from Tier II taxes. Only any resulting surplus goes to investment.

      The RRB Trust Fund is relatively tiny – latest figures I could find show it to be between $26 and $27 billion. With 539,000 drawing benefits, that’s only around $50,000 investment capital for each beneficiary – which I’d guess is about 10x less that the fund needs to be truly self-sustaining, and is why the fund is projected to go broke in around 25 years.

      Bottom line: the Federal government lied to you railroad workers too, Rock8. Railroad retirement benefits are just like Social Security. They’re not proceeds from an investment plan, or in general an earned pension you own. They’re largely a tax-funded entitlement you get at the government’s sufferance, not something to which you have legal ownership rights. Most benefits are paid from current taxes – which, like Social Security, suffers from the same demographic problem (a declining number of current contributors per individual receiving benefits).

      The only difference might be the Tier II part; you might have ownership rights to that part of Tier II benefits originating from the proceeds of tangible (e.g., real or privately owned) assets. But that fund is projected to go broke in 25 years or so, too – just like the Social Security trust fund.

      Don’t believe me? Look up the facts yourself:




  12. Rock8 says:

    I appreciate your attempt to school me on my retirement system, but you missed the point: that RR retirement takes NO taxpayer funds from the general fund. And therefore everyone can keep their grubby hands off our system.

    I am well aware that the Tier1/Tier2 taxes being paid in gor right to the retires. And the ‘going broke’ in 30 years thing has been hanging out there for the past 13 years.

    But whatever, just keep your hands off it. Don’t hate.

    • Hondo says:

      Obviously you missed my point, Rock8. Or perhaps you have difficulty with reading comprehension.

      Above, I never said RR retirement was getting money from any “general fund”. What I said – and what the RRB freely admits in the documents that they publish – is that Tier I RR Retirement benefits have been running a deficit since 1959 with respect to Tier I Railroad Retirement Taxes and have been subsidized by money from the Social Security Trust Fund every year since 1959. In other words: Social Security is subsidizing Tier I RR Retirement benefits.

      Social Security is funded by FICA taxes. Yes, they’re not “general fund” taxes. Doesn’t matter. They’re still taxes – and a net deficit or overage there contributes to the net true Federal deficit (Federal income minus Federal spending) just the same as one in general tax revenues. Anyone arguing otherwise is obfuscating.

      Further: the Social Security “trust fund” – AKA financial house of cards – is today estimated to go belly-up in somewhere around 18-19 years – NOT the “30 years” you claim. (A decade ago, it was estimated to be around 35 years; you seem to be rather behind the times.) At that point, Tier I gets the same cuts by law that Social Security gets.

      Why? Simple. Like Social Security, it’s also PAYGO. At that point, $$$ in must equal $$$ out – by law – because there’s no longer a “trust fund” from which to make up the difference. The best projection is that bennies will be cut 25% or so when that happens.

      Tier II benefits are in slightly better shape, but they will see the same in around 25 years.

      You may be old enough that you don’t expect to be here in 18-19 years – and thus don’t care. Me? I do. And I care about my descendants’ future also.