Published November 1974 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd Budget Has Had Spectacular Increase We have been hearing a good deal about holding the federal budget to $300 billion to cut goverment spending in the fight on inflation. That figure, of course, is so astronomical as to make it impossible, really, to comprehend the amount of money involved. The federal budget has reached that peak only recently. For fiscal 1974, which ended June 30, federal outlays were $268 billion. In fiscal 1975, which began July 1, total outlays will approximate $305 billion~ exceeding $300 billion for the first time. But as recently as fiscal 1970, the federal budget was below the $200 billion level; and it topped $100 billion for the first time only in 1962. Broad and costly social legislation, the Vietnam war, and inflation have pushed the budget-which reflects the ups and downs of U.S. history-to its present size. The first U.S. budget in 1789-91 was puny indeed by comparison-amounting to a little over $4 million. That grew to more than $45 million before 1850, and in the top year of Civil War expenditures, 1865, soared to the then unbelievable total of $1.3 billion. From that pinnacle, federal outlays subsided to a low of $236 million in the late 1870's, and they had climbed to only $520 million by 1900. The second billion-dollar budget did not come until FY 1917 and World War I. Federal spending rose then to $18 billion by the end of the war, but dropped back to less than $3 billion in the late twenties. The budget increased in the depression of the thirties to a little over $8 billion, as federal programs were enacted to provide jobs and stimulate the economy; and it skyrocketed to just under $100 billion in 1945 during World War II. It dropped to $32 billion in 1948, but climbed again with the Korean war to more than $74 billion in 1953. Wars have been the most costly undertakings in our country's history. But in FY 1973, for the first time, the cost of the social programs administered by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare exceeded the expenditures of the Defense Department $82 billion to $75 billion. The recent swift growth of the federal budget has been an important factor in stimulating inflation, and as such deserves the concern of all citizens.