Here’s a statistic to add to the ominous atmosphere of Halloween: Americans spend as much on this holiday as the government spends on the Head Start program for low-income children (about $9 billion a year). And the federal government soon will spend more on interest payments on the national debt than on children, according to the 11th edition of the Urban Institute’s annual Kids’ Share report, released today.
Federal spending on children—from health and education to nutrition and refundable tax credits—is projected to shrink as a share of the federal budget over the next decade. Currently, spending on children makes up about 10 percent of the federal budget, but that share is expected to decline to 7.5 percent in 2027.
Meanwhile, interest payments on the national debt are projected to consume a growing share of the federal budget. Federal spending has exceeded revenues every year since 2001 and is projected to continue growing for at least the next 10 years.
Consuming an even greater share of the federal budget is spending on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid for adults. Together, spending on these three programs for adults is projected to increase from 46 percent of the budget in 2016 to 50 percent in 2027. Of all the growth in federal spending projected over the next decade, 62 percent will go to these three programs, 28 percent will go to interest payments on the debt, and just 1 percent will go to children.
Spending on children is an investment in the nation’s future. It helps ensure that children are fed, housed, kept in good health, and able to reach their full potential. Under current-law projections, we risk shortchanging our investment and leaving future generations with a legacy of debt. That’s truly frightful.