Federal government data show that in 2011, Washington outlays totaled $3.6 trillion, while receipts came to $2.3 trillion. Of the receipts, $1.1 trillion came by way of individual income taxes. The spread between the two figures means the federal government was running a deficit of $1.3 trillion. Defense, Social Security and Medicare / Medicaid outlays likely will account for more than 60% of federal spending in the 2013 fiscal year. The chart below shows planned spending outside of those programs.
What should the government do to close the gap, or should it even do anything? The U.S. financial situation is at the center of the 2012 elections, specifically the race for the White House between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. So we want to give you a chance to weigh in with your thoughts on spending and the U.S. economy.