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A policy document allocating burdens (taxes) and benefits (expenditures).


An excess of federal expenditures over federal revenues.


Government spending of revenues. Major areas of federal spending are social services and national defense.


The financial resources of the government. The individual income tax and Social Security tax are two major sources of the federal government's revenue.

income tax

Shares of individual wages and corporate revenues collected by the government. The Sixteenth Amendment explicitly authorized Congress to levy a tax on income.

tax expenditures

Revenue losses that result from special exemptions, exclusions, or deductions on federal tax law.

Social Security Act

A 1935 law passed during the Great Depression that was intended to provide a minimal level of sustenance to older Americans and thus save them from poverty.


A program added to the Social Security system in 1965 that provides hospitalization insurance for the elderly and permits older Americans to purchase inexpensive coverage for doctor fees and other health expenses.


A description of the budget process where the best predictor of this year's budget is last year's budget, plus a little bit more (an increment). According to Aaron Wildavsk, "Most of the budget is a product of previous decisions."

uncontrollable expenditures

Expenditures that are determined not by a fixed amount of money appropriated by Congress but by how many eligible beneficiaries there are for a program or by previous obligations of the government.


Policies for which Congress has obligated itself to pay X level of benefits to Y number of recipients. Social Security benefits are an example.

House Ways and Means Committee

The House of Representatives committee that, along with the Senate Finance Committee, writes the tax codes, subject to the approval of Congress as a whole.

Senate Finance Committee

The Senate committee that, along with the House Ways and Means committee, writes the tax codes, subject to the approval of Congress as a whole.

Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act

act designed to reform the congressional budgetary process; supporters hoped it would make congress less dependent on president's budget and better able to set and meet its own budgetary goals

Congressional Budget Office

Advises Congress on the probable consequences of its decisions, forecasts revenues, and is a counterweight to the president's Office of Management and Budget.

budget resolution

A resolution binding Congress to a total expenditure level, supposedly the bottom line of all federal spending for all programs.


a congressional process through which program authorizations are revised to achieve required savings. It usually also includes tax or other revenue adjustments

authorization bill

An act of Congress that establishes, continues, or changes a discretionary government program or an entitlement. It specifies program goals and maximum expenditures for discretionary programs.

appropriations bill

An act of Congress that actually funds programs within limits established by authorization bills. Appropriations usually cover one year.

continuing resolutions

When Congress cannot reach agreement and pass appropriations bills, these resolutions allow agencies to spend at the level of the previous year.

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