Nate Silver does a great job at FiveThirtyEight breaking down where our government is spending money on the federal, state, and local level. After a thorough analysis he concludes what is fairly obvious: growth in government spending is coming from "entitlement programs" like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and (to a far lesser degree) welfare. This analysis leads me to two takeaways:
1) We don't have a spending problem, we have an entitlements problem. When you see plans to slash non-defense discretionary spending remember that's not the problem and that's not grown substantially since 1972. Non-defense discretionary spending has been relatively static for forty years, so those offering plans to slash the budget are wanting to take away government services like education funding, infrastructure investment, and R & D. More to the point, if they take it away it won't do anything to deal with the actual problem we have. It's a solution matching ideology, not necessity.
2) Just because we have an entitlements problem doesn't mean we should eliminate our entitlement programs. There are a number of things driving the entitlement problem. From exploding health care costs to demographic shifts. Some of these problems, like health care costs, can be worked. Some, like the demographics problem, need endured.