Our Government’s Budget

Stacks of cash on a white background.
Each year, the United States government must decide how it will spend its money by October 1st.

You may have heard the term “household budget” before. This is when people plan how much money they can spend on things like food, clothing, and entertainment. The United States has a budget too.

The government spends money on things like the military, highways, and healthcare for the elderly. The United States budget is enormous. In 2017 the United States spent nearly $4 trillion. Four trillion dollars is one million dollars times four million dollars.

Taxes pay for what the government spends. This means many people have opinions how the government should spend money. In February, the president gives a budget request to Congress. This is a detailed plan about how the president would like to spend our country’s money. Congress then looks at the plan. They make changes to it. Congress drafts a series of bills to fund [pay for] different parts of the government. Then, the president must sign these bills by October 1st.

For many years, the government has spent more money than it has taken in. This is called a budget deficit. This means the government owes a lot of money, or is in debt. By 2017, the national debt has reached $20 trillion. So, the government tries to cut spending where it can while still paying for what it needs.

Often, different parts of the government disagree on what the government should pay for and what it should cut. If they cannot agree by October 1st, Congress has to pass a continuing resolution. This is a bill that keeps the government funded until they can pass a budget. If they cannot pass a continuing resolution, the government will have to shut down.

What About You?  What do you think the government should spend money on?

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