America’s financial future is at a crossroads.  While Congress debates the right path to balance the budget and restore order to the nation’s fiscal house, now more than ever, citizens must understand the problem and what is at stake.

The Heritage Foundation’s special preview of the 2011 Federal Budget Chart Book provides a user-friendly way to learn about the federal budget using pictures.

Debt and Deficits Chart 1 shows that the United States’ debt is set to skyrocket unprecedented levels due to looming runaway deficit spending.  As shown in Chart 3, growing debt increases the amount the nation owes in interest, which represents taxpayer dollars which could be spent on other priorities.  As Congress prepares to once again address the debt ceiling, Americans should take note that the need to do so is occurring more frequently than ever, as Chart 6 depicts.

Federal Spending Chart 7 shows that government spending, not dwindling revenue, is driving increasing deficits.  Federal spending has been on the rise for years, growing faster than both federal revenue and the median income, as Charts 2 and 3 reveal.

The main cause for climbing levels of spending is growth in entitlement programs, as Entitlements Chart 1 shows.  Any solution that does not include reform of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will be inadequate.  Relying on higher revenue to pay for them would raise taxes to unrealistic levels, as shown by Chart 3, and solutions which focus on reductions of smaller programs would also be insufficient, as shown by Chart 5.

Though Washington continues to consider tax hikes a viable choice to address runaway federal spending, taxes are already on the rise.  Federal Revenue Chart 1 shows that under several scenarios supported by members of Congress, revenue will climb to all-time highs.

To get the federal budget back on track will require tough policy choices and bold reform to entitlement programs.  Several proposals to tackle the issue exist, including those from House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), President Obama, and the President’s deficit commission.

It’s now up to the American people to decide the best way forward, and here to help is the Budget Chart Book.  Visit today to view, interact with, and download the charts, or to share them on your blog or other network.