The presentation of the budget plan by the White House and in the media seems deliberately designed to make it difficult to understand the nature of the political choices made by the Obama administration. The budget becomes more comprehensible if one divides it into two broad categories: those functions related to the military, intelligence and domestic repression, and everything else.
This provides a rough means to distinguish between the essential role of the American capitalist state and the domestic programs that were established in an earlier historical period to alleviate social problems produced by capitalism, and which serve to disguise the repressive role of the state and engender popular illusions.
The military and repressive functions of the state account for $901.8 billion in discretionary funding in the 2013 budget. This includes: Department of Defense, $525.4 billion; the war in Afghanistan and other “overseas contingency” military funding, $88.5 billion; Department of Homeland Security, $39.3 billion; intelligence agencies, including the CIA and NSA, $52.6 billion; Department of Energy (largely for nuclear weapons), $27.2 billion; Department of State, $54.3 billion; Department of Justice (including the FBI and federal prisons), $36.5 billion; Department of Treasury, $14 billion; Department of Veteran’s Affairs, $64 billion.
Total non-defense/security domestic discretionary spending comes to $333.5 billion in the 2013 budget: Department of Health and Human Services, $76.4 billion; Department of Education, $69.8 billion; Environmental Protection Agency, $8.3 billion; Department of Housing and Urban Development, $35.3 billion; Department of Interior, $11.4 billion; Department of Labor, $12 billion; National Aeronautics and Space Administration, $17.7 billion; Department of Transportation, $74 billion; Department of Agriculture, $23 billion; Department of Commerce, $8 billion; National Science Foundation, $7.4 billion.
As this summary demonstrates, the intelligence agencies alone account for more spending than all but three of the departments providing domestic social services. The “overseas contingency” spending on the military, by itself, is larger than the discretionary spending for any other non-defense agency.