Everyone Complains About Taxes, But Who Knows Where They Go?

David Olive writes about an American initiative to help inform citizens about how tax money is spent.

By providing freely available information, one hopes that there will be a more sensible discussion about the perilous financial straits in which the American federal government (and many state governments as well) is currently sailing, and more cooperative efforts at restoring the ship to a sane course.

The main point is that many people say that they hate paying taxes, but if they only knew where the money was spent, they might make more pointed criticisms. (Also see today’s column by Heather Mallick.) For example, apparently many people in the U.S. are in a lather about tax money going to PBS and NPR; but if they only knew how pathetically little of their money goes there, they would realize that it’s not worth discussing.

On the other hand, the two most critical wasters of taxpayer money would be apparent: the military and health care, which both absorb an enormous amount of money. In the case of the military, reducing spending there should be obvious as a sensible action, but powerful and well-funded interest lobbyists would oppose any such suggestion with evangelical fervour. And if it were widely known how much of the health care budget goes to private, for-profit, insurance companies, surely there would be outrage among American taxpayers, and widespread support for changes that would benefit American citizens.

A careful and transparent analysis and exposition of the entire tax system would inform ordinary citizens about how the system facilitates the transfer of wealth from the average and the poor to the super rich, and would explain why the gap between rich and poor has been steadily and dramatically rising in the past half century, endangering all of us.

Update: For a thought-provoking argument that corporate taxes should be eliminated (he argues, among other things, that they are ultimately paid by workers), see today’s article by Doug Saunders.

(This post first appeared at my other (now deleted) blog, and was transferred to this blog on 22 January 2021.)