Tax and Spend
Today is April 16th, or Tax Day as it is sometimes known in the United States. Normally, we pay our taxes on April 15th, but since that was yesterday and nobody in the Federal Government works on the day of the Lord, they delayed it for our benefit.
When I was employed full-time by a company, they automatically removed my federal income tax from every paycheck so the government wouldn’t have to wait for me to give it to them. Now that I am self-employed, I have to write a check to them for the full amount of the taxes I owe on the income I made while a citizen of the United States to pay for all those grand and glorious federal services from which I derive so many benefits, like highways and airports and the military. When the taxes were taken out a little at a time and all I had left to pay (or have returned to me) was a teeny tiny portion of the overall burden, I had a little resentment over that check I had to write. It wasn’t the fact of the money itself, because I believe that we should pay for certain expenses as a society or else chaos will rule because no one would want to pay for it themselves. Can you imagine a world where every street, every lane, every alley, every freeway and every highway included a toll? Would anyone repair them if they had to pay for that? How much would getting anything shipped cost, then? So we pay our part in that economy of size so everyone benefits.
No, what irks me is how the money is being proportioned, and the fact that I, as a taxpayer, have little or no say in its proportioning.
Now that I have to sit down and write out that 5-figure check all at one time and I am given the opportunity to look at the amount of money I’m paying the Bush administration to continue to fuck me over and try to deny me some basic rights because I happen to be gay (or did they stop supporting a Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and no one told me?) while running the debt sky-high in payment for a war they started on false premises and continue to run badly, resulting in the entire world now looking at the U.S. not as a savior and model of democracy but rather as something to fear and reject, it makes me somewhat, well, pissed off.
I think my credentials as a bed-wetting Liberal are well known, and I have never held back in my distaste, derision or dislike for Mr. Bush, his supporters, and his myriad of lackeys and yes-men and -women who continue to somehow top themselves in the Worst Presidential Administration Ever content. And I also realize that my tax dollars are not fully controlled by the White House and that the esteemed spineless members of Congress have more than their share of blame in the pork barrel politics that reward campaign contributors with bridges to nowhere and corn subsidies out the ying yang. I figure that out of the $20k or so in taxes that I paid this afternoon, more than half is going to be flushed down the drain due to interest payments on the ever-increasing federal debt and legacy crap that portends financial ruin for future generations unless someone smarter (like, say, a 5th grader) steps in over in D.C. and brings spending back under control.
But even the fifth graders won’t be qualified or capable of rational thought unless we start putting more money into education now. And I don’t mean subsidizing parents to remove their kids from public schools by giving them vouchers to place the kids in private facilities, I mean paying more to teachers now, and improving the schools now, and making America’s educational processes something to be proud of rather than an international joke. Teachers have it hard enough without the feds turning their backs on them and washing their hands of the problem as if they didn’t start it in the first place.
My state government is hardly more worthy of the moolah I had to send them. I love living here and I doubt I could make more money somewhere else, but at the same time I wouldn’t need to make more money somewhere else because it’s hellishly expensive to life here. I accept all that as a choice on my part, but I kind of resent California’s — and San Francisco’s — continuous need to tell me what’s good and what’s bad for me. Why does this state insist on treating its citizens like children? Are we really that innocent that we can’t make decisions about what to eat on our own?
Don’t answer that. I know we’re a joke to the rest of the country, particularly those of us here in the Bay Area where real estate prices are absurd and gas prices are among the highest in the country.
Which brings to mind the absolutely terrible state of public transportation in the U.S. Where are the high-speed trains? Why is the MUNI such a horrible shambles in San Francisco? They keep raising the cost of a ticket but nothing gets any better! So they added a new line that travels to a new neighborhood. Whoopdee fuckin’ a. Dig some new tunnels and get me to the Wharf without having to ride on some rickety antique trolley that has to contend with all the gas-guzzlers! Why does it still take an hour to go from San Francisco to Palo Alto? And why can’t someone figure out a way to make more airports or runways or something so it’s a not a 3-hour wait to get going and then find out the plane’s over-booked anyway?
I pay taxes, so I can bitch about this stuff. They say if you don’t vote you can’t bitch about what’s going on the government, but we all pay taxes so we’re all paying for the stupid decisions and wastes of money and shifting of priorities away from making life for everyone better and easier toward making life for a few much, much better (and often, those few don’t even pay any taxes!) while the rest of us suffer.
If the United States was a hotel, the suites would be given away for free because those who could afford to stay in them wouldn’t need to pay for them, while the rest of us would be doing our own laundry and cooking our own meals because there’s not enough money to support public works. The hotel staff would be off waging war on another hotel across the street, though we wouldn’t be able to give them weapons or armor so they’d be picked off by snipers, and the owners running the place would be too busy pointing fingers placing blame for the state of things and stuffing cash into the pockets of the companies hired to bring in potatoes and milk. And we’d just keep paying for this bad service and we’d never expect it to improve.
A fairly partisan web site called WarResisters.org has a pie chart at their site reportedly showing the actual breakdown of your federal tax dollars at, restructuring the official party line to reflect where money actually ends up rather than where it’s intended to go. So this may be where every dollar actually goes to that keep the government wheels turning.
51¢ out of every tax dollar goes to the military — or probably more accurately, it goes to companies bilking the federal government for $200 wrenches and tanks that don’t work. 7¢ alone goes to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 12¢ covers the government itself, paying salaries and building buildings and maintaining buildings and keeping gas in the limousines. Physical resources (Agriculture, Interior, borders, environmental protection, transportation, etc.) gets a whopping 5¢ — that’s right! We’re spending more on those 2 wars than we are on everything else inside our borders. And that leaves 32¢ of your tax dollar to be spent on education, health and human services (hospitals), housing, and the gobbling monster that is Social Security which eats up 2/3 of that 32¢.
Feeling better now, or worse?
I’d suggest you have a little fictional play-act of your own. Sit down, take out your checkbook, and physically write a check for the total amount in taxes you paid for 2006. Not the amount you still owed after everything else was already stripped out of your paycheck — write a check from your bank account for the full dollar amount you’re paying the federal government for the above breakdown. Look at that amount of money, cut it in half, and that’s what you’re paying in military spending alone. 20% of that is going to Social Security. And only 1/20 of that check pays for America’s physical resources.
How’s 2008 shaping up? See for yourself. In the 2008 proposed Federal Budget or $834.4billion, $410.7billion (48.6%) is allocated to the D.O.D., a full 56.2% goes to security spending overall, including Homeland Security and our so-called “War on Terror.” Education gets $56.5billion (6.7%).
April 16, 2007