Report | Budget, Taxes, and Public Investment

Major budget proposals pit public investment against vital services

Policy Memo #187

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Press release

The current budget debate has generated various plans to bring revenues and spending into alignment, including proposals by the president, congressional caucuses, individual legislators, and outside groups. The majority of these plans focus disproportionately on the non-security discretionary (“domestic discretionary,” or NSD) budget, that portion of the overall budget that not only delivers the primary source of investment in our nation’s future, but also provides vital services to people in need, protects Americans from corporate abuses and environmental degradation, and keeps the government itself operating. Despite its important functions, the domestic discretionary budget represents only 15% of the total budget, and accounts for only 14% of the inflation-adjusted increase in federal outlays over the last decade.

It is instructive to compare these plans to slash the domestic discretionary budget, yet varying assumptions and categorizations make this comparison difficult. This analysis makes the necessary adjustments for a true apples-to-apples comparison of the plans while providing historical context on the NSD budget.