I happen to believe that the only way to really get serious about our deficit problem is to reform both the tax code and our entitlement programs. Our overall tax rates are the lowest they have been in decades, and our payments to individuals (entitlements) continue to rise. I think there should be more means testing for social security and medicare, as well as gradual increasing of the age when benefits kick in, and that our payments to address the poor should be increased. This will not be fixed without some pain being felt for all.
Over the last month, we've heard endless debates on federal spending, federal spending as a share of GDP, the $14 trillion ever-increasing federal debt, the the federal debt as a share of GDP, spending cuts as a condition to raise the debt limit, possible revenue/tax increases, a possible balanced budget amendment later, etc.
In 2010, the OMB reports (Table 6.1 Composition of Outlays, 1940-2016) that the federal government spent $3.45 trillion, and made about $2.3 trillion in "payments to individuals," which was about two-thirds (66.13%) of total federal spending last year, the highest ever in history (see top chart above). And that category was more than three times larger than the share of 2010 federal spending on defense (20.1%) and more than 11 times larger than the share spent on net interest (5.7%).
Where does all that money go? The bottom chart displays a percentage breakdown of the $2.3 trillion in payments to individuals for 2010, and shows that more than 76% of those payments were for Social Security and Medicare, about 14.4% was for spending on the poor (public assistance, food assistance, and housing assistance), 7% on unemployment insurance payments, and 2.4% on student assistance.