March 7, 2011

Americans and taxation

Having a conversation with a friend who believes that he is already paying too much in taxes. It started me thinking about the amount of money we pay in taxes v. the services that we get. As I keep arguing, conservatives seem to think that government spending only goes to undeserving people.

Help me out on the math here, as everyone knows that is not my strong suit. And for the purposes of this conversation, I am only talking about dividing the cost of these services evenly among the tax payers. I am not accounting for income differences, or even the different progressive tax brackets that ask Glenn Beck to pay a slightly higher tax rate on part of his income.

I won't mention the number he gave me as his federal tax rate, but it is pretty low. But let's recognize that he has defended both wars, and when talking about the federal budget talks mostly about those programs that help the poor.

So, if we look at the federal budget, there are ~300 million Americans, but, of course, once we remove the shiftless children and those who don't pay tax for other reason, we have substantially fewer to divide by. According to Wikipedia, there are approximately 130 million taxpayers in America, but that larger number needs to be acknowledged, since most of these programs indirectly help (at least theoretically) all of those 300 million.

So, for example, if we divide the 2010 budget for military, including both wars, (around 664 billion dollars), that comes out to nearly 4,800 dollars per person. And that is just military spending. If we factor in the cost of Veterans Affairs, that is another $376. Funding the Department of the Interior, which among other things, manages National Parks, costs each of us around 90 bucks a year.

So we are well over 5,000 dollars and have not even talked about federal funding for roads and highways, or even Homeland Security. We haven't mentioned block grants to states and local governments that allow upgrades to sewer and water treatment plants, nor assistance to improving city parks and schools. We haven't talked even about basic environmental or labor protections, nor protecting consumers from poisonous pharmaceuticals. We haven't touched college subsidies to students at state universities and community colleges (indirectly through assistance to the school and then through science grants that help the University), nor school loans nor Pell grants. We haven't talked about foreign aid, or even the cost of our State Department and diplomats and embassies and all the other stuff they do. Nor disaster relief, nor the cost of federal courts and judges, nor federal prisons.

That number doesn't account for Medicaid and Medicare, nor the service on the debt. (Medicare and Medicaid add up to about the same as Defense spending, so we are looking at another 4,800 there--if we paid for it, and if we paid for it all equally). It doesn't count NASA, the management of the US Treasury, Social Security, the Labor department or Commerce Department.

And we haven't even gotten to food stamps, Head Start, or WIC. And don't get me started on funding for the arts or Public Radio.

Are we over-taxed?


Bob said...

"As I keep arguing, conservatives seem to think that government spending only goes to undeserving people."

They are right. Most of the money goes to undeserving red states and the wealthy.

Smitty said...

Best. Comment. EVER.

Streak said...

I was expecting more discussion about this post. Is this a useful way to talk about taxation, or no?