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balanced budget

A spending plan in which the revenues coming into an organization equal its expenditures.

budget surplus

The amount by which an organization's revenues exceed its expenditures.

federal deficit

The amount by which the national government's annual expenditures exceed its revenues. To make up the difference, the government must borrow money.

national debt

The amount of money a country owes to lenders. The national debt is the total of al yearly deficits funded by borrowing plus the interest owed on those loans.

deficit spending

Spending financed by borrowing rather than by tax revenues.

progressive tax

Any tax in which the burden falls more heavily on the rich than on the poor. State and federal income taxes are examples of these.

regressive tax

Any tax in which the burden falls more heavily on the poor than the rich, at least as a percentage of their incomes. Sales tax is an example of this.


Benefits that must be provided to all eligible people who seek them. Most important are Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid payments.

discretionary spending

Money that can spent as seen fit. It can be raised or lowered as Congress sees fit.


Specific spending proposals that members of Congress attach to legislation, usually to benefit their home districts or states. Most lawmakers view these as a way to "bring home the bacon."


a plan for spending and receiving money

budget resolution

rough budget discount; spending priorities

appropriations bill

a bill that lays out how money will be spent.

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