Budget authority vs. outlays

July 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Federal budget documents often show the same spending in two different measures, “budget authority” and “outlays.” As an editor, reporter or infographics journalist, you need to know the difference between the two, or you will waste copious time figuring out which figures to use and why your numbers don’t match everyone else’s. Fortunately, the budget states clearly on every table and spreadsheet whether the numbers are calculated as budget authority or outlays.

So what’s the difference between the outlays and budget authority? Outlays for fiscal 2013 reflect the actual amount of money the federal government will spend in 2013. The outlays figure for 2013 includes some unspent money that was authorized in previous budgets and excludes some spending approved in 2013 that will carry over into 2014 and beyond. Budget authority for 2013 excludes any funding authorized in previous years but includes money authorized in 2013 that will carry over into the future. ┬áIf you are having a hard time keeping that straight, check out the diagram above, which comes from the budget concepts section of the federal budget, page 138.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2013/assets/concepts.pdf

So when do you use outlays and when do you use budget authority?

Use outlays when you are referring to the overall size of the fiscal budget for a given year or when you want to show the deficit or surplus.

Use budget authority when you want to show the effect that the administration’s policy decisions that year had on various agencies or functions of the federal government. Because it doesn’t count money approved in previous years, budget authority gives you a clearer picture of whether an administration is cutting or increasing funding for a department.
The two examples above come from the summary tables section of the budget, where you will find most of the top-line budget figures.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2013/assets/tables.pdf

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Political prediction market

November 21, 2011 § Leave a comment


President Barack Obama has a 51% chance of being elected, according to the Intrade market, in which bettors buy and sell shares that pay off if their predictions are correct. How accurate is the collective wisdom of the market on political matters? More accurate than political pundits, according to the Washington Post and the New York times. http://tierneylab.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/11/24/bettors-beat-pundits/
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/post/does-intrade-matter-political-betting-explained/2011/10/12/gIQAHqpdhL_blog.html
While the Intrade market has been a more accurate barometer than public opinion polls, its data only occasionally gets used in news graphics, such as the New York Times chart above.

To read Intrade data as a percentage, you just convert the dollar amount so that, for instance, $6.70 is 6.7%.

In addition to a market on Obama’s chances, Intrade has odds on each GOP presidential candidate, House, Senate and Governors’ races, and whom Sarah Palin and Jim DeMint will endorse.

Arab-Latin mashup

September 5, 2011 § Leave a comment


A crazy mashup of Middle-Eastern and Latin styles has emerged from the infographics coming out of the Emirates. Peruvian designer Luis Chumpitaz, at the Arab Media group, lies at the heart of this trend. Check out his portfolio: http://www.onemoregraphic.com/

Gallup daily poll on economic conditions

August 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Each day, Gallup polls Americans on how they view economic conditions. The percentage saying the economy is poor shot up by 10 points around the time of the congressional battle over raising the debt ceiling.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/110821/Gallup-Daily-US-Economic-Conditions.aspx

You can download the data and build your own chart. Unfortunately, these figures only go back to 2009, so they don’t capture the period before the recession that began in December 2007. I suspect you could get older figures by contacting Gallup directly.

S&P sovereign credit ratings

August 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

Standard and Poors just downgraded the U.S. credit rating a few hours before I posted this, so I haven’t seen any news graphics posted about this subject. But you can go to this link to see where the U.S. ratings stand compared with other countries. The down grade puts us below Canada, on par with Belgium and above Japan.
http://www.standardandpoors.com/ratings/sovereigns/ratings-list/en/us?sectorName=Governments&subSectorCode=39

The ratings bring the U.S. credit-worthiness from “extremely strong” to “very strong” based on its political and economic profile, which I find kind of funny despite the seriousness of the situation.

Debt limit

July 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

debt limit wall street journal
On the same day, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post published graphics highlighting tough choices the federal government would need to make if the debt ceiling isn’t raised by Aug. 2: The U.S. would need to decide which bills to pay and which to skip. The Wall Street Journal’s graphic is above and the Washington Post’s is below.
washington post debt limit
The Washington Post also published an interactive graphic in which the user can chose which federal bills to pay with the limited funds that would be available.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/federal-debt-limit-you-choose-who-gets-paid/?hpid=z2

Both publications turned to a recent analysis by the Bipartisan Policy Center, which estimated daily receipts and payments based on publicly available data from daily Treasury statements. The report provides specificity that brings home what this crisis could mean for our country.

http://www.bipartisanpolicy.org/library/staff-paper/debt-limit-analysis

bipartisan policy center debt limit analysis

Who holds Greek debt?

July 4, 2011 § 1 Comment

With Greece heading toward default on its debt, many news organizations are looking at who would pick up the tab. This New York Times chart breaks down how much Greek debt each country holds. The data comes from the Bank for International Settlements, which coordinates international financial services regulations and serves as a bank for central banks.

The BIS maintains a vast menu of statistics, so here is the exact location where you would find these figures:

Go to the BIS site’s Consolidated Banking Statistics page (http://www.bis.org/statistics/consstats.htm.)
Scroll down to the bottom, where you will see a link to Table 9E Foreign exposures on selected individual countries, ultimate risk basis. Note that not all countries will be listed in the data.

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