NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Mandatory Spending on the Rise

April 22, 2014

There is no need for "mandatory spending" classifications, says Nick Gillespie, editor in chief of

There are two spending classifications -- mandatory and discretionary. Those things classified as mandatory spending are Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the like. Discretionary spending, into which the defense budget falls, requires a funding vote each year.

  • In 1962, mandatory spending was less than 30 percent of overall federal spending.
  • But last year, a whopping 60 percent of federal spending was "mandatory."
  • And within 10 years, that number should reach 70 percent.

But calling it "mandatory" spending is a misnomer, purely the creation of lawmakers in Washington. "Medicare isn't some fact of nature but the creation of politicians who can change or abolish it at any time," says Gillespie. However, by calling it mandatory spending, lawmakers do not have to take votes each year to fund these programs, and they can deal out money to voters without taking fiscal responsibility for the outlays.

Neither Republicans nor Democrats have shown true interest in entitlement reform. If all mandatory spending were reclassified as discretionary spending, lawmakers would be required to vote each year to fund these programs.

Source: Nick Gillespie, "Our Mindless Government Is Heading for a Spending Disaster," Daily Beast, April 10, 2014.


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