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The best quick looks at the problem from our partners and others:
The Peterson Foundation's Guide to the President's Budget, February 2009
The Peter G. Peterson Foundation offers their take on President Obama's 2010 budget proposal: from President and CEO David Walker (also in pdf) and a citizen's guide (pdf).
Plausible Baseline, the Concord Coalition
A lot of the budget projections made by the federal government are actually hampered by assumptions that can't be changed (for example, by law the CBO projections have to assume President Bush's tax cuts will expire on schedule in 2010). The Concord Coalition doesn't have those limitations and their projections are even more frightening.
Federal Spending By the Numbers 2008 The Heritage Foundation
This easy-to-digest series of charts sums up a lot of key trends about federal spending.
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A lot of obscure terms get thrown around when people talk about the federal budget. You certainly don't need to know all these terms, and in fact we think only a handful of basic ones are necessary to understanding the big picture, but this glossary from the Congressional Budget Office is a useful, comprehensive resource for economic and budgetary terms.
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Data in Depth
If you're going to get really serious about this (and it helps to have Adobe Acrobat Reader):
Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2010
It's all here, and then some. You can find it in two places: through the White House Office of Management and Budget and the Government Printing Office. Not only do these give you exhaustive detail on the president's budget proposal for 2010 and how the White House sees the situation, but they're also the best sources for historical budget data.
State of the USA Health Indicators, December 2008, State of the USA, Inc. (SUSA)
SUSA asked the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on the State of the USA Health Indicators to provide guidance on 20 key indicators to be used on the organization’s website that would be valuable in assessing health. The selected indicators reflect the overall health of the nation and the efficiency and efficacy of U.S. health systems.
CBO Looks Into Its Crystal Ball
The Congressional Budget Office says the deficit's expected to top $1.2 trillion, not counting the economic stimulus package, as tax revenue shrinks by 6.6 percent. The agency followed up with a report examining the budget issues involved in creating an economic stimulus package.
21st Century Challenges: Reexamining the Base of the Federal Government, Government Accountability Office
The GAO examines 12 areas of the federal government it says should be re-examined and revised.
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The Public's View
The best public opinion research on this topic:
Changing Expectations: Americans deliberate our nation’s finances and future
This report from Viewpoint Learning found the main obstacle to building public support for the difficult choices we face is not public opposition to tax increases or program cuts, nor is it public lack of interest. The main obstacle is a deeply felt and pervasive mistrust of government. The series of ChoiceDialogues, along with a follow-up survey, revealed the leading edge of a significant, and widespread, shift in what Americans expect of their leaders and themselves.
The $9 Trillion Dept: Breaking the Habit of Deficit Spending, National Issues Forums
Become a part of the solution! This guide presents an overview of the problem, three possible approaches to the problem, and a two-page post-forum questionnaire to be completed by forum participants and returned to the National Issues Forums Institute in Dayton, Ohio.
It’s Time to Pay Our Bills: Americans’ Perspectives on the National Debt & How Leaders Can Use the Public’s Ideas to Address the Country’s Long-Term Budget Challenges, Public Agenda
This report reveals the potential and obstacles in public thinking about our fiscal future and provides political leaders with six specific, publicly supported steps toward real federal budget reform.
Facing Up to the Nation's Finances: Understanding Public Attitudes about the Federal Budget, 2006, Public Agenda
This focus group report found while the public was uninformed on federal budget issues, they required relatively little information to appreciate the magnitude of the problem. But the public's deeply felt cynicism about government is a major barrier that must be addressed before progress can be made.
Americans Deliberate Our Nation's Finances and Future: It's not about taxes - It's about trust, Viewpoint Learning
This report from Viewpoint's ChoiceDialogue discussions shows given an opportunity to work through the issues, Americans find a surprising amount of common ground. They were willing to support changes that require sacrifice, including program cuts and tax increases, but only if they could be assured that their tax money was being well spent and for the purposes intended.