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March 19, 2009


Federal spending sand chart

by brainoids

NOTE:  An updated 2011 version of this visualization is available at:

Not a bright idea per se, but a handy data visualization to share:

This is a sand chart of Federal budget outlays, normalized to FY09 dollars, going back to 1962.   You can drag the stack bars at top to get different top-level views, as well as drill down using the menu at left.  Note also the “percentage” button at lower right, which allows for viewing in a ‘percent of portfolio’ stack; looking at each major category at left while in this mode helps show how our national spending priorities have evolved over time.

Federal budget outlays, 1962-2009, in 2009 dollars

Federal budget outlays, 1962-2009, in 2009 dollars

I’ll update it with current and forward-looking estimates once the full FY10 President’s Budget Request comes out in April, and probably backfill some key categories back to the 40’s as well.

Some interesting slices:

  • Drill down Human Resources -> Health -> Health Research to see the “NIH Doubling” (now a tripling).  The parent Health category is also eye-opening.
  • National Defense -> National Defense -> Department of Defense breaks out the 20-year defense cyclicals, with swings of ~$150B-$200B.
  • Other Functions -> Administration of Justice is also fairly amazing (remember, these are already corrected for inflation).
  • Digging around will also reveal some key national crises, like the 70’s energy crisis, the savings and loan crisis, and Katrina.

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