Federal Government Spent Record $3.2 Trillion in 2009

Federal Government Spent Record $3.2 Trillion in 2009

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The federal government spent $3.2 trillion domestically in the last fiscal year—more than $10,500 per person, according to new figures from the Census Bureau. That marks a 16 percent increase from the previous year, the largest one-year increase since the bureau has kept track of the numbers.

The report paints a picture of continuing economic hardship and the government stepping in to help. The $814 billion stimulus law enacted in 2009 was part of the reason for the large increase, as was higher use of programs to provide support for poor and out-of-work Americans.

The annual report from the Census, which covers Oct. 1, 2008 through Sept. 30, 2009, is a window into the government's spending each year. Nearly half the money -- $1.5 trillion – went for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. These entitlement programs must pay benefits to all who qualify. That number is up $136 billion from fiscal 2008 and is expected to explode in coming years with the retirement of baby boomers and rising health care costs.

The feds spent $86 billion on employment compensation, up 115 percent from last year. Unemployment benefits to states rose by more than 100 percent in 40 states. Spending on welfare and food stamp programs hit $68 billion, a 32 percent increase over last year.

Three departments alone accounted for 78 percent of grant money to states in 2009: Health and Human Services, which pays for Medicare and Medicaid; Education; and Transportation, which funds highway and infrastructure projects. Per capita, Medicare and Medicaid spending was highest in Hawaii ($6,990 per person) and lowest in Utah ($1,118 per person).

Some spending from the stimulus law can be measured on a state-by-state basis. The largest stimulus line-items in the report went to Medicaid aid to states ($32 billion),  education grants ($6 billion) and highway infrastructure ($2.4 billion). The government also guaranteed or insured $310 billion in mortgages.

But the impact of the stimulus can't be tracked completely. The tallies also don't include interest payments on the debt – about $189 billion – or foreign aid.

The government paid nearly $300 billion in salaries in 2009, almost 10 percent of total spending. Almost half of that went to the Defense Department. It spent $551 billion on procurement contracts, almost two-thirds of it in the Defense Department. Retirement and disability programs like Social Security cost $881 billion.

Overall, the highest spending per capita was in Alaska, which got $20,351 per person, while the lowest was is Nevada, which got $7,148 per person.

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