No one wants to pay taxes, but unless we're willing to return to an earlier form of civilization, taxes would seem to be here to stay. A think tank called Third Way has a logical idea about how to inform taxpayers about the ways in which our money is being spent: give us a receipt. I think it makes perfect sense.
In the example given, the median American taxpayer in 2009 made $34,140 and paid the US government $5,400 (including payments into the Social Security and Medicare systems). More than $1,000 of the pay-out went to Social Security benefits and nearly another $1,000 went to Medicare and Medicaid. Defense spending, fighting wars and veterans' benefits totaled around $500, and interest on the national debt was $287.
Nothing else costs the average taxpayer more than $70 a year, including highways ($63.89), NASA ($28.09), the FBI ($11.21), the EPA ($11.67), the DEA ($3.14), the national park system ($4.27) and funding for the arts (24 cents). Recent polling shows that about half of those surveyed believe that the US government spends more on foreign aid than Social Security; in reality, of course, we spend more than 20 times on Social Security than the $46.08 that goes to foreign aid.
The Republican Party loves to tell us that they want to lower our taxes and cut spending, but in reality the discretionary elements in the federal budget are relatively small and most pay for important programs. The GOP's pronouncements are a charade and they know it. There's no denying that there is waste in the federal bureaucracy and some things -- subsidies to agribusiness and the oil industry, for example -- should be cut. However, stripping out all of the excess spending is likely impossible in a country this size.
What we really need to do in America -- as unpopular an idea as it is to all of us -- is to raise taxes. Someone once said that if the citizens of this country were truly patriotic they'd celebrate April 15 as a national holiday. I won't go that far, but I do want to see the Bush tax cuts expire and the marginal tax rate raised to pre-1980 levels (70%).