Marimekko chart of US government spending by mission

US Government Spending Against its Mission

The preamble to the US constitution lays out 4 missions for the government.  Federal, state and local governments spend almost $5.4 trillion in 2014.  To get a better understanding of where this money went, Steve Ballmer established the USAFacts website and mapped spending against the 4 missions:

  1. Establish Justice and Ensure Domestic Tranquility
  2. Provide for the Common Defense
  3. Promote the General Welfare
  4. Secure the Blessings of Liberty to Ourselves and Our Posterity

Securing the blessings of liberty, which includes spending on social security, education and medicare, accounted for $2.8 of the $5.4T.  Promote the general welfare, which included cash and non-cash programs for the disadvantaged, accounted for $1.2T.  Defense and veterans spending made up most of the $.8T spent on providing for the common defense.  Finally, $.4T was spent on law enforcement, the justice system, fire protection and other ways to establish justice and ensure domestic tranquility.  The Marimekko chart below breaks down spending by mission and by the major spending categories that make up each mission:

US Government Spending by Mission, based on data from USAFacts

USAFacts provides an excellent database of spending information.  More importantly, they have taken the time to categorize spending into major buckets and then to group these around the four missions in the preamble to the constitution.  I decided to group federal, state and local spending together, which forced me to use data from 2014, which was the last year for which state and local spending was available.

I had to do some combining of categories to get the data to present well in a Marimekko chart.  Many smaller categories were listed in USAFacts.  I combined some into "Other" categories in each bar.  Items like spending on foreign aid and the environment are relatively small and would clutter the chart if shown individually.  I did try to label the other categories to give the reader a sense of what they contained.

I sorted the bars so that the biggest appeared on the left and I sorted the series so that the largest appeared on the bottom of each bar.  I then excluded the "Other" series in each bar form the sort so that it always appeared on top.  I used the Color After Sort option to more logically color the segments.  I also custom-colored all the other segments to light grey to group them together visually.

Here is the chart in SlideShare to download and edit using Mekko Graphics: