Just the facts about the budget

This election, Democrats and Republicans are arguing fiercely over the proper size of the government. Money magazine looks at the facts -- how much we're spending and what we're spending it on.

What Uncle Sam really does
What Uncle Sam really does

The federal government, a Treasury official in the George W. Bush administration once quipped, is really a "gigantic insurance company with a sideline business in national defense."

Since the 1960s, defense plus "entitlements" -- meaning Social Security and health care programs, including Medicare and Medicaid -- have consistently been more than half the budget.

What's changed is the split: Retirement and health care have switched places with defense as the biggest expense.

By Susie Poppick @Money - Last updated April 11 2012: 3:22 PM ET
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