If you have some free time, you can read President Obama’s Proposed 2015 Budget, pdf, all 218 pages of it. Luckily, a few days ago I read an article in CNN Money that offered a few tips. The author clearly has experience with this process, I don’t, so what the heck! “The first trick: Skip the rhetoric. (“This budget takes critical steps to grow our economy, create jobs and strength the middle class….”) Do what the pros do: Go directly to the tables.” These tables are found in the Appendix. According to the article, Table S-5 is the main budget, so I guess that’s a good start.
Side note: I’m sure someone smarter than me will create fancier and more valuable versions than I ever could. But, I took a stab at it, just to see how easy or hard it is to interpret the data (and to be able to say that I actually did it – baby steps, people…) I’ll focus on 2014 vs. 2015 so we can get a year-over-year comparison and will keep track of how many scores (or learnings) I gain throughout the process. But before I start, can I just say…. it’s 2014 and I’ve told you before that Spreadsheets are Dead!! That’s pretty much what these tables are: page after page of tables, extracted from somebody’s spreadsheet. How about we cut to the chase and include charts and graphs, or even share the .xls so people can create visualizations for themselves to get UNDERSTANDING! Moving on…
First up, you’ll notice OUTLAYS. I have no idea what that is so I looked it up, “Payments to liquidate an obligation (other than the repayment of debt principal)” It basically means expenses, ok? Score 1 for me! After doing a little basic math, you’ll notice that the PROPOSED SPENDING IS UP 6%. Score 2 for me. Note the distribution between individual and corporate.
Ok, so the next section is RECEIPTS, which is basically income. PROPOSED INCOME IS UP 10%. Score 3. Where is it coming from? Well, you can see that in the charts below.
(In case you’re wondering, I’m 45-minutes in…) On to the final section, DEFICIT. For kicks and giggles, I also looked it up, “The amount by which outlays exceed receipts in a fiscal year. It may refer to the on-budget, off-budget, or unified budget deficit.” From the data below, you can see that the PROPOSED DEFICIT IS DOWN 15%.Score 4.
Whew! Now, I have educated myself on the overall financial plan President Obama envisions for our country. What I don’t know are the details behind the outlays and receipts. If any area sticks out to you, say like the new line item for Immigration Reform, just skip to that section to learn more.
For now, I’ll take a much needed break and wait to see how the various news and media outlets start to play with the data. Now that you have the file, you can see for yourself, what’s fact and what’s fiction. Oh and before I forget, a simple reminder: this is just a PROPOSAL and it’s VERY likely it will almost definitely change. AND keep in mind that Congress needs to approve it… Based on all the details in this one chart I analyzed, along with the hundreds of pages and more charts, I can more clearly see why this budget discussion is as complicated as it is. Score 5. These details alone are overwhelming.