The federal government faces long-term budget challenges. Some measures of fiscal solvency indicate that, under current policy, the United States faces a persistent future budgetary imbalance. Projections show that this is largely due to rising health care costs and the related increase in government-financed health care spending. Federal spending is divided into three broad categories: discretionary spending, mandatory spending, and net interest. Mandatory spending is composed of budget outlays controlled by laws other than appropriation acts. Entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, make up the bulk of mandatory spending. In contrast to mandatory spending, discretionary spending is provided and controlled through appropriations acts. Net interest spending is the government’s interest payments on debt held by the public, offset by interest income that the government receives.
Date of Report: March 18, 2015
Order Number: IF10153
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