TIME Senate

Senate in Rare Saturday Session as Shutdown Threat Looms Again

Senator Sherrod Brown Holds Hearing On "Regulatory Capture" With New York Fed's Dudley
From Left: Senator Elizabeth Warren a Democrat from Massachusetts speaks with Senator Joe Manchin a Democrat from West Virginia during a Senate Banking Subcommittee in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 21, 2014. Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images

The House passed a bandaid spending bill Friday but the Senate is locked in a showdown

For its grand finale before it concludes early next year, the 113th Congress is staging yet another procedural showdown in a rare Saturday session, as lawmakers work to pass a bill to fund the federal government before it runs out of money at midnight.

The House of Representatives Friday averted a government shutdown with a temporary spending bill to fund the government for five days, but the Senate must still approve the bill. The Hill has been locked in debate over a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund the government through September of next year.

The Senate had hoped to close up shop for the year Friday, but lawmakers could not come to agreement after some Republican senators demanded a vote on a measure protesting President Obama’s controversial immigration order issued in November, which shields some four million undocumented immigrants in the United States from deportation.

“Before the United States Senate is a bill that does nothing, absolutely nothing to stop President Obama’s illegal and unconstitutional amnesty,” said Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.

Some Democrats, however, are worried about changes to financial regulatory laws included in that measure, McClatchy reports. “A vote for this bill is a vote for future taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street,”Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D—Mass.), a longtime advocate for financial regulation reform, said Thursday.

If lawmakers cannot come to an agreement on a temporary spending bill by midnight Saturday the federal government will run out of money. A final vote on the full $1.1 trillion spending bill could come on Monday.

[McClatchy]

TIME Congress

Congress Hands A Mixed Bag to Marijuana Movement

Charlotte's Web harvest at the Stanley Brother's farm in Wray, Colorado for Pot Kids story.
Industrial grade hemp grows on the Stanley Brother's farm near Wray, Colo., Sept. 22, 2014. Matt Nager for TIME

The year-end spending bill gives momentum to the marijuana movement, plus a painful setback

For the marijuana legalization movement, 2014 ends the way it began: with legal changes that showcase the movement’s momentum alongside its problems.

Tucked into the 1,603-page year-end spending bill Congress released Tuesday night were a pair of provisions that affect proponents of cannabis reform. Together they form a metaphor for the politics of legal pot—an issue that made major bipartisan strides this year, but whose progress is hampered by a tangle of local, state and federal statutes that have sown confusion and produced contradictory justice.

First the good news for reformers: the proposed budget would prohibit law enforcement officials from using federal funds to prosecute patients or legal dispensaries in the 32 states, plus the District of Columbia, that passed some form of medical-marijuana legalization. The provision was crafted by a bipartisan group of representatives and passed the Republican-controlled House in May for the first time in seven tries. If passed into law, it would mark a milestone for the movement, restricting raids against dispensaries and inoculating patients from being punished for an activity that is legal where they live but in violation of federal law.

“The enactment of this legislation will mark the first time in decades that the federal government has curtailed its oppressive prohibition of marijuana, and has instead taken an approach to respect the many states that have permitted the use of medical marijuana to some degree,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher said in a statement to TIME. The California Republican’s work on the issue reflects the strange coalition that has sprung up to support cannabis reform as the GOP’s libertarian wing gains steam and voters’ views evolve.

At the same time, the House chose to overrule Washington, D.C., on the issue. Last month voters in the District chose to liberalize its marijuana laws, passing an initiative that legalized the possession, consumption and cultivation of recreational marijuana. The move, which was supported by about 70% of the capital’s voters, paved the way for D.C. to follow in the footsteps of Colorado and Washington State by establishing a tax-and-regulatory structure for pot sales in 2015.

Now those plans have gone up in smoke. The omnibus bill contains a measure that would block D.C. from using funds to enact legalization. Congress has the power to scuttle the District’s plans because it controls the capital’s budget. D.C. politicians blasted the move, while many in Congress lamented the agreement. But there appears to be little that members can do to stop it.

Trampling on the district’s sovereignty was especially galling, says Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and a D.C. resident, when it happens at the same time that lawmakers uphold states’ rights elsewhere. “Republicans see D.C. as so rock-solid Democratic,” St. Pierre says, “that they won’t give it the autonomy they are otherwise willing to grant states.”

The spending bill caps a year in which pot moved to the forefront of the political debate in ways that longtime advocates never thought possible. A majority of Americans now support full marijuana legalization. In January, Colorado became the first state to establish a legal recreational pot market, following by Washington last summer. Both debuts had successes, yet both states were beguiled in their own ways by lingering federal challenges. In Colorado, legal million-dollar businesses still must conduct their business largely in cash, because federal law that classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug blocks legal merchants from the banking system. In Washington State, the new weed shops comprise just a small slice of the marijuana economy, a thin legal layer piled atop the entrenched medical market and an illicit black market that continues to thrive because of better prices.

But Washington struggles also underscore why the medical-marijuana measure in the Congressional spending bill is important. Medical patients in the Evergreen State have been at the whims of overzealous U.S. attorneys or members of the Drug Enforcement Agency, who had discretion to ignore the Obama Administration’s admonition to let the local experiments play out.

That left medical-marijuana patients like Larry Harvey, a septuagenarian retiree, trapped by a legal paradox. Harvey and his wife Rhonda were legal medical-pot patients who cultivated cannabis at their home in the mountains above Kettle Falls, Wash., until they were arrested on federal drug charges. They are currently awaiting trial. Larry Harvey, who has long suffered from gout and was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, has been unable to use marijuana to ease the pain. Now, says Kari Boiter, a medical-marijuana advocate at Americans for Safe Access who has worked closely with the Harveys, the family’s attorneys can argue that the government has no standing to pursue the case.

Overall, the spending bill is “more mixed signals from Washington, D.C.,” Boiter says. “But for medical marijuana patients, it is a real clear blow to the Department of Justice prohibition that has been crushing them. It feels like we’ve been vindicated.”

Update, 12/12: The original version of this story noted the bill contains a measure that would block D.C. from using federal funds to enact cannabis legislation. It also blocks the use of local funds.

Read next: Colorado Approves Credit Union for Pot Store

TIME Opinion

Determined to Cut Taxes Once Again, Republicans Use New Math to Reshape Reality

CBO Director Elmendorf Releases Budget And Economic Outlook For 2014-2024
CBO Director Elmendorf on Aug. 27, 2014, in Washington, DC. Alex Won—Getty Images

"Republicans and Democrats inhabit different factual universes"

In 2004, an unnamed senior White House staffer, widely thought to be political adviser Karl Rove, gave a famous interview to Ron Suskind, “The aide,” Suskind wrote, “said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’”

But, the anonymous man told Suskind, that wasn’t the way the world worked. “We’re an empire now,” he’s quoted as saying, “and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.’”

The staffer may not have known it, but he was identifying one feature of the kind of crisis era into which the United States had just entered. Great political crises like those of the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Depression and the Second World War, and the one that began in 2001 and continues today are also struggles over the meaning of words—words like democracy and dictatorship, freedom, free enterprise and socialism, and so on. They also become struggles over the most basic facts. Writing during the great worldwide crisis of the Second World War, George Orwell identified a number of competing world views whose adherents could not accept various obviously true statements about the world around them. Within ten years more—that is, by the mid-1950s—that was no longer the case. Victory in war and postwar economic growth had created a new consensus in the western world.

But today, divisions over reality are as deep as they have been for a very long time, and Republicans and Democrats inhabit different factual universes. One obvious area of disagreement is climate change. While President Obama seeks agreements with foreign nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Republicans almost unanimously reject the consensus of scientific opinion and argue that those emissions have not been proven to heat up the planet. Another very important area of disagreement concerns fiscal and economic policy — and this week it became clear that some Republicans are struggling to make their version of economic reality prevail in Washington, too.

The New York Times reported on a campaign by prominent Republican conservatives and some Tea Party Congressmen to replace the director of the Congressional Budget Office, Douglas W. Elmendorf, with someone who would calculate the effects of tax cuts in a different way. Led by the anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and the Heritage Foundation, these Republicans specifically want a new director who would use what they call “dynamic scoring” to predict the impact of tax cuts. “Dynamic scoring” is based upon the theory of supply-side economics. That theory, first popularized under Ronald Reagan, held that tax cuts, particularly on the highest income brackets, would unleash extraordinary economic growth, and therefore bring in more, rather than less, revenue within a few years. Dynamic scoring is a theoretically more sophisticated application of this idea. Rather than simply deduct the projected cost of tax cuts from federal revenues to estimate their future impact, dynamic scoring actually predicts how much new tax cuts will increase GDP by unleashing economic growth, and how much they will tax revenues and mitigate the effect of the cuts upon the deficit. Since the new Republican majorities in Congress are determined to cut taxes yet again while claiming to move closer to a balanced budget, this is an idea they need to validate in order to justify their plans.

The history of dynamic scoring is closely tied to the history of Republican economic policy since Ronald Reagan. When Reagan took office in 1981, the federal deficit was $79 billion. His Administration immediately adopted policies based on supply-side economics. It didn’t work. When he left office eight years later after several rounds of tax cuts on the higher brackets, the annual deficit was $152 billion, down from a peak of $221 billion in 1986. Despite George H. W. Bush’s tax increases, which split the Republican Party, a severe recession had raised the deficit back up to $255 billion when he left office in 1993.

Bill Clinton began his Administration with an income tax increase on nearly all Americans. It helped cost the Democrats the House of Representatives in 1994. It was at that point that Newt Gingrich, then the new Speaker of the House, and his fellow Republicans began to advocate dynamic scoring as a means of calculating the impact of further tax cuts. Once again, they claimed they could accurately estimate the beneficial impact of leaving more money in the hands of the wealthy and ease fear of deficits. But Clinton refused to go along, and eventually, the Clinton Administration ran a budget surplus in fiscal 2000.

George W. Bush inherited a deficit of only $32 billion in 2001, and came into office determined to cut taxes again. By 2003, the Bush Administration was basing calls for a second round of cuts on dynamic scoring estimates that once again claimed that the cuts would generate increased revenue. The cuts passed, but their impact, combined with the Iraq war and the Great Recession, was to balloon the deficit up to $641 billion in fiscal 2008, and $1.55 trillion in fiscal 2009. Together, President Obama and the Republican Congress have now reduced the deficit to $483 billion in the fiscal year that was just completed. This pattern actually dates from the 1950s. Beginning with Dwight D. Eisenhower, every Republican President has substantially increased the federal deficit, while every Democratic President except Jimmy Carter has reduced it during his term of office.

Few theories of public policy have been tested so repeatedly and failed tests so spectacularly, as the idea that tax cuts in the high brackets will ultimately increase revenue and lower deficits. But led by Representative Paul Ryan, the Republican majority, by pushing for personnel changes that will lead the non-partisan Congressional budget office to adopt dynamic scoring, is eager to try it again. It is hard for me to believe that any Republican activists seriously believe that a new round of top-bracket and corporate tax cuts will increase revenues. Their real agenda, I suspect, is the one that Grover Norquist—a prime mover in the campaign to replace Elmendorf—has repeatedly spoken of: to force further reductions in government spending by reducing government revenues still further. Meanwhile, wealthy Republican donors will get even wealthier, and, presumably, even more generous in their contributions. Once again the Republicans are trying to create their own reality: a world in which making the rich richer will bring down deficits, while only a few poor benighted members of the “reality-based community” take the trouble to notice that this is not so.

David Kaiser, a historian, has taught at Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, Williams College, and the Naval War College. He is the author of seven books, including, most recently, No End Save Victory: How FDR Led the Nation into War. He lives in Watertown, Mass.

This post has been updated to include additional economic data.

TIME Newsmaker Interview

Eric Cantor’s Secrets for Negotiating with Joe Biden

Joe Biden
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the Civil Society Forum on the sideline of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 4, 2014 Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images

"The Guy's Awesome"

Last week’s Republican victories may have had the paradoxical effect of increasing the influence of the consummate Congressional Democrat, Joe Biden. GOP leaders looking to show they can get things done now that control both the House and Senate will need to cut deals with the Obama White House, and Vice President Joe Biden may be their best hope to do so.

On Tuesday, TIME spoke with one of the closest observers of Biden’s negotiating tactics, his long-time sparring partner and former House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, now vice chairman and at the investment bank Moelis & Company. As the number two Republican in the House for the first six years of the Obama administration, and a constant thorn in the side of the White House on issues like the budget, energy, immigration and health care, Cantor saw Biden’s techniques up close.

You’ve spent a lot of time negotiating with Vice President Biden. What was that like?

Cantor: Unquestionably, the Vice President knows how to negotiate. He understands people. And in my professional background, before I got to Congress and certainly now in the private world at Moelis & Company and in Congress, if you’re interested in doing deals, and getting a result, what I think what one needs to do is be able to size people up. And this is what Joe Biden has always been about in my experience. He is able to size up where the opposition is. He’s firmly rooted in his direction, what he needs to accomplish in the negotiations, and then understands how far you can push and not lose a result or a deal.

My real experience is from the extended time we spent together in the summer of 2011 around the debt ceiling discussions. As you recall, the Speaker had asked me to serve on the Biden commission. The President had basically formed it and put the Vice President in charge. And there were a handful of us in the room for seven weeks almost, three days a week, two and a half hours a day. And the Vice president was the only one, and that commission was the only entity that really came up with a list of spending reductions that both sides could agree to.

Now, he would always say nothing was agreed to unless everything is agreed to. But nonetheless, work was done in the granularity of the programs that were targeted. Nothing was ever agreed to universally because the tax question came up and that’s what kicked it back to the White House and we all had to come back to the White House for two weeks with the President and then ultimately that ended with the Super Committee creation. But if you look at what has transpired since then, the Super Committee, the fiscal cliff, Murray-Ryan, all of that, the work that came out of Joe Biden’s commission is the common theme. And I believe that is attributable to his negotiating skills and ability to cut through—to set aside what you don’t agree on and try to come to a result.

What was the difference in negotiating with the President compared to the Vice President:

Cantor: I just think that the President obviously doesn’t have the tenure in Washington in negotiating deals that the Vice President’s had. Just in terms of pure time. And I think that the President is very rooted in what he wants. The President also, in my view, is very rooted in what he thinks the other side wants. And that’s where the difficulty in my opinion has been with the President over the last six years. If one does not agree with the President’s view of what you want, there’s very little prospect for a result. Joe Biden has a real sensitivity, not only to human reaction, but also partisan and political sensitivities. He understands how far you can push before you just blow up the prospects for a deal.

One readout of last week’s White House meeting suggested that the Vice President got ahead of Obama’s position on immigration reform in a desire to cut a deal. Have you seen that happen before?

Cantor: Honestly, the whole sense of the discussion around the initial debt ceiling talks in 2011 was just that. The president had dispatched the Vice President to come up with areas that could become part of a larger deal. And really the Vice President was very clear and never hid anything from me. He said in order to get any of the kinds of things we’re discussing, the President is going to want some kind of revenue increase. He laid it all out on the table. ‘That’s what we need.’ And I indicated what we needed and that we couldn’t go for tax increases. So I think there has certainly been evidence that the Vice President is a negotiator, he wants to cut through and get a deal done.

I think that on the fiscal cliff deal, when he struck that agreement with McConnell, that was the last time that the President wanted Joe Biden involved. And this is unfortunately what the pattern has been. Hopefully, I think the President may see the light and say if you want to get a deal done, bring in the deal man, Joe Biden.

What’s the current state of the Biden-McConnell relationship?

Cantor: I can’t speak for McConnell. But I do… stay in touch with [Biden]. He stays in touch with people. Part of the ability to do deals is to know both sides and to understand their thought process and their political priorities and imperatives. My sense would be, if I’m like others, Joe Biden has maintained those relationships. And that’s one of the striking differences between the President and Vice President. The President has not spent the time necessary even while he’s been in office the last six years, much less before, developing, nurturing relationships and understanding people’s thinking. And that is a huge impediment to the President’s ability to do a deal, whereas I think Joe Biden has been schooled in that way.

How did you try to square the Vice President’s public image with his negotiating record?

Cantor: Joe Biden is what you see. You know, he’s genuine. Yes, he’s prone to gaffes publicly, and he’ll admit that. He’s very self-deprecating like that. And I’m certainly not one who agrees with Joe Biden on all things—we probably disagree more than we agree—but from a human and relationship standpoint, the guy’s awesome.

Do you think the midterms opened up the possibility for deal-making?

Cantor: I really think that there’s going to be a trial period here. And I really look at the next six weeks as that. From the White House standpoint, if the president signs an executive order on immigration unilaterally that will not bode well for the productivity of the next Congress. Again, I think that’s the trial issue for the president.

From Congress’ standpoint, their job is to get done the omnibus/minibus spending package. Because if they kick the can and decide to push the [longer-term spending bill] into the next Congress so they don’t have to “negotiate” with the other side, I think that leaves wide open the chance of mischief and derailing of the path to productivity.

Do you think last week’s election paved the way for a more united GOP conference, or will leadership still have difficulty keeping members in line.

Cantor: In my experience, I think the latter would probably be [a more likely] reality. And it’s always going to be a challenge for leadership. I do think in the House, the Speaker and the Leader are going to have a much larger majority now that hopefully will be more inclined to follow the path laid out by the Speaker and the leadership. If we can see the House and Senate to really begin to move legislation across the floor—and some of the legislation and probably a lot of it will not be to the White House’s liking—there’s something about that that may lend itself to a more espirit de corps, if you will, for folks to hang together because they’re winning, they’re getting legislation across the floor, they’re getting it out of Congress, sending it to the President’s desk and then it would be incumbent on the President to respond.

I think if you can see some real legislative productivity on the Hill that may lend itself to the larger majorities now hanging with leadership more.

MONEY home improvement

$336 Made This Blah Bathroom Awesome

A budget remodel turned this bleak bathroom into an attractive cottage-style space. Here's how the homeowners pulled it off.

Nothing’s more boring than basic beige. While the master bath at Meredith and Stephen Heard’s ranch house, in Fayetteville, Arkansas, was perfectly functional, it was a bleak blank box of washed-out finishes. To give it some oomph, Stephen created a high-contrast look on the walls with white-painted board-and-batten wainscot made from low-cost lath and furring strips; above it, Meredith used a dark gray paint to add depth.

The vanity was in great shape, so Stephen just replaced the cultured-marble top with stained and sealed butcher block and, to create more deck space, put in a vessel sink. Meredith updated the cabinet doors with white paint and satin-nickel pulls left over from their kitchen remodel. To brighten the space, Stephen replaced the old strip vanity light with a three-shade fixture and the standard overhead flush-mount with a drum-shade pendant. Finally, Meredith added a sunny shower curtain she made herself. Having banished the bland, she says, “It’s so much more welcoming now—we feel like we really gave the room some personality.”

The Project Tally

• Tacked up lath and furring strips, board-and-batten style, using a nail gun; filled knots, sanded, and caulked; then sealed it all with leftover primer and paint $26
• Painted the walls a dark gray, custom mixed at the store from paint they had on hand $0
• Freshened the vanity with leftover paint and pulls $0
• Topped the vanity with a new butcher-block counter, vessel sink, and faucet from a big-box store $170

For the full tally, click here for the original article from This Old House.

Read next: The Secret to Getting a Ridiculously Cheap Thanksgiving Flight

MONEY retirement planning

8 Things You Must Do Before You Retire

sébastien thibault

Getting ready to retire? The moves you make in the months before you call it quits can smooth the way to a secure future.

After working diligently for more than 30 years—so you could set yourself up financially for your golden years—the glow of retirement is finally on the horizon. Alas, it’s not time to relax just yet.

Each day more than 10,000 baby boomers enter retirement. Yet only around one-quarter of workers 55 and older say they’re doing a good job preparing for the next phase, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. The last 12 months before you call it a career is especially critical to putting your retirement on a prosperous path. It’s time to get your portfolio, health care, and other finances in order so you can enjoy your new life.

THE TURNING-POINT CHECKLIST

12 Months Out:

Dial back on stocks now. You still need the growth that equities provide, but even a 15% market slide in the year before you retire can erase four years’ worth of income. Cap stock exposure to around 50% in your sixties, advises Rande Spiegelman, vice president of financial planning at Schwab Center for Financial Research.

Raise cash. Your paychecks are about to stop. So as you downshift from stocks, move that money into a savings or money market account to fund at least one year of expenses, says Judith Ward, T. Rowe Price senior financial planner.

Set a realistic retirement budget. Use the worksheet on Fidelity’s free retirement-income planner to list all of your fixed and discretionary expenses. Then use T. Rowe Price’s free retirement-income calculator to see how safe that level of spending is likely to be, based on the size of your nest egg and age.

6 Months Out:

Play out Social Security scenarios. You can claim Social Security at 62, but if you can hold off until 70 your checks will be 76% bigger. Tool around FinancialEngines.com’s free Social Security Income Planner to find the best strategy for you.

Figure out how you’ll pay for health care. Check if your company offers retirees medical, long-term care, and other insurance coverage. If you won’t get health insurance and aren’t yet 65 (when you qualify for Medicare), then compare plans offered via the Affordable Care Act at eHealthInsurance.com. Or use COBRA, where you can stay on your employer plan up to 18 months after leaving.

3 MONTHS OUT:

Begin the rollover process. In a small 401(k) plan, average fund expenses can run north of 0.6% of assets. You can cut those fees at least in half by shifting into index funds at a low-cost IRA provider. See if your plan provides free access to investment advisers to help you decide.

Sign up for Medicare. Nearing 65? You can enroll for Medicare up to three months before turning that age. Also, figure in supplemental plans to cover expenses that Medicare does not, such as dental care and prescription drugs.

Get a running start. Put your post-career itinerary into action. Research volunteer groups that you want to join, reach out to contacts if you plan to keep a hand in work, start a new exercise routine, or begin planning that big trip.

MONEY

$539 Created This Reading Nook

A budget renovation transformed this odd space into a cozy retreat.

In a blank space, there’s a lot of room for improvement. Just ask Vel Baricuatro-Criste and her husband, Gerson Criste. After having a contractor add a windowed egress dormer in an over-the-garage room for their teenage son, they were left with an odd, unfinished nook. Vel saw it as an opportunity to create a quiet reading alcove as part of an overall update of the bedroom.

What They Did
She painted both spaces white with an accent rail of bold navy stripes to create a cohesive look. To keep things cozy underfoot, Gerson installed striped carpet tiles over the nook’s plywood subfloor. Then he built a storage bench from prepainted cabinets, using stock lumber to fill in gaps at the back and sides and painting the exposed sides white so that they blend in. Vel made a seat for the bench by stapling fabric-topped foam to sheet pine that her husband had cut to size. Gerson installed floating shelves to display some of their son’s books; the rest tuck neatly away in the storage bench. Sconces flank the window seat, and a flush-mount fixture hangs overhead, providing plenty of light for nighttime reading. Now the nook is her 13-year-old’s favorite place to unwind. “He has a whole room to hang out in, but whenever he has friends over, they’re always in that space,” says Vel. “They love it!”

The Project Tally
• Painted the room white with navy stripes $109

• Finished the floor with carpet tiles found at a big-box store $98

• Created a bench from laundry cabinets and stock lumber $110

 

For the full tally, see the original story at This Old House.

TIME Budget

Which President Accrued The Highest Budget Deficits?

Hint: It wasn't Barack Obama

When looking at the United States’ massive amount of national debt, many Americans focus blame directly on the president. In fact, CNN surveyed 1,010 adults nationwide earlier this year and found that 44% still believe that President Bush and the Republican party were “primarily responsible for the country’s current economic problems.”

But was it this former president who left the country in its worst shape at the end of his two terms? With data provided by the White House Office of Management and Budget and the Council of Economic Advisors, research engine FindTheBest ranked the 14 most recent presidents by the total deficit they accrued during their presidencies—so far, in the case of Barack Obama—as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product of their time in office.

TIME Budget

This is How the U.S. Has Been Spending Its Money Since 1971

Federal spending on social programs has increased in the wake of the Great Recession

You’ve heard it too many times—griping and groaning about the United States’ debt, worrying about where tax dollars are going, outrage that the government is spending its money on all the wrong things—but in truth, too many Americans have no idea where the federal budget goes, which is a part of the reasons why they feel left in the dark.

Instead of pointing fingers, it’s always best to get a little perspective. Research engine FindTheBest complied federal budget data since 1971 to see how the government has been spending its money over time. The bars in the graph are divided by program.

Note that starting in 2008, around the time of the Great Recession, the government increased spending in Social Security, unemployment and labor, and it has steadily increased every year since. This was largely due to the fact that those without jobs realized that they could be eligible for Social Security disability benefits and Medicare, which would cover a big portion of their expenses.

Also, 2009 saw a significant increase in spending than the year before, especially in the “other” category—a mix of energy, agriculture, commerce and housing credit, community and regional development and other allowances. The spike was in commerce and housing credit, which increased from $27.8 billion in 2008 to $291 billion the next year as the government tried to fix the newly-burst housing bubble.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: September 5

1. Our nation’s racial divide starts early: America’s public schools are still highly segregated.

By Reed Jordan at the Urban Institute

2. The Pentagon is getting bad advice about responsibly managing its budget and our national defense.

By Nora Bensahel in Defense One

3. “We need to step up our game to make sure that Putin’s rules do not govern the 21st century.”

By Madeleine Albright in Foreign Policy

4. Over a lifetime, and despite the high cost of tuition, a college education is still a great deal.

By Jaison R. Abel and Richard Deitz at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York

5. Reality television – MTV’s “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant” – triggered a plunge in the teen birthrate.

By Phil Schneider in the Aspen Journal of Ideas

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

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