U.S. Defense Spending in Eight Charts

This week, the House is expected to debate and vote on the 2015 Defense Appropriations Act. On May 7, the House Armed Services Committee unanimously approved $496 billion in discretionary spending and $79.4 billion in war operations spending for the budget that starts Oct. 1. We explore how this stacks up against the rest of the world, who benefits most from defense spending, and what these funding levels mean for other national priorities.

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What We Could Invest In if We Ended Special Corporate Tax Breaks

Services for American families have been under constant attack over the past several years. Head Start slots were cut, Meals on Wheels deliveries were curtailed, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has been squeezed. House leaders have repeatedly insisted the country cannot afford such programs while continuing to push forward hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks for corporations. What could we as a nation invest in if we ended these special tax favors?

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Stories of Americans Cut Off of Emergency Unemployment Compensation

It was a long and cold winter in Washington, DC, in more ways than one. At the end of 2013, Congress allowed Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) to expire, leaving 1.3 million Americans who had been without work for more than six months suddenly cut off from their lifeline benefits. Unemployment benefits don't provide a lot – about $269 a week on average – but it is enough to put some food on the table, pay the most urgent bills, and hang on by your fingernails until work can be found. Without this support, many families are forced to drain their retirement accounts and sell their belongings. Some face homelessness.

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A Tale of Two Corporate Tax Plans

Last month, House Ways and Means Chairman David Camp (R-MI) released his long awaited tax reform package. In it, he proposed overhauling the corporate tax code, eliminating many deductions and loopholes.

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State of the Union: What the President Should Say about Inequality and Fiscal Policy

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a "bully pulpit" as "a public office or position of authority that provides its occupant with an outstanding opportunity to speak out on any issue." President Theodore Roosevelt was the first to call the White House a bully pulpit, and he and other heads of the executive branch have used it as a platform to raise the profile of various issues and push forward an agenda for change. The most regular, high-profile instance of highlighting priority issues is the annual "State of the Union" address (President Franklin Delano Roosevelt first called it that in 1934), where the president addresses a joint session of Congress huddled together in the House chamber.

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Expiring Help for the Unemployed or Expiring Tax Breaks: What Will Congress Extend?

December was a tough month for those down on their luck. More than a million long-term unemployed workers, having already been out of work for at least six months, saw their unemployment insurance abruptly cut off. Just weeks before this happened, federal food assistance for children, seniors, and people with disabilities was reduced. Job growth was anemic, and the unemployment rate fell because many people simply stopped looking for work (and so moved from "unemployed" to "out of the labor market").

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Austerity Politics: Automatic Spending Cuts, a Government Shutdown, Job Loss, and Record Corporate Profits

2013 opened with the economy poised on the edge of "the fiscal cliff," and on that cliff was a sign reading, "Manufactured in Washington D.C." How did we start the year on a ledge, land in a shutdown in October, and scramble to a mini-deal in December? Since it all goes back to the Budget Control Act passed in August of 2011, a short recap may be in order.

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Time to Invest in Infrastructure, Revive Jobs, New Report Argues

WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2013—This week, a special House-Senate budget committee proposed a federal budget deal that continues to ignore essential and pressing public infrastructure needs. A new report published today by the Center for Effective Government argues that Congress needs to focus on our investment deficit. It argues that Congress needs to pay more attention to investments in critical infrastructure in order to reinvigorate the economy and create jobs.

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More Federal User Fees Could Be Part of a Mini Budget Deal

Observers have low expectations of the special House-Senate committee set up to craft recommendations for a long-term fiscal deal to replace the next nine years of so-called "sequestration" (automatic and indiscriminate budget cuts). Those recommendations are due by Dec. 13. The committee met for the first time last week, with Republicans publicly opposed to tax reforms that could generate more revenue and Democrats rejecting a spending cuts-only approach. But some think a smaller deal could happen to replace a year or more of sequestration, involving more "federal user fees" as a modest way to generate more funding.

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The Government Is Open Again…Now What?

Just after midnight on Oct. 17, President Obama signed legislation that avoided a dangerous default and reopened the government after the third-longest government shutdown in history. Under the terms of the deal, the government was funded through Jan. 15, 2014, and the debt limit was extended until Feb. 7, 2014.

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