This being April 15,2014 and not wanting to think about that other constancy of death, I have decided to challenge my brain and try to understand where the money goes. Notice I say “goes” because no one ever worries about where we are going to get the gelt to pay for all this. Don’t want to screw up a good story with details but I have to.
The Wall Street Journal had an excellent table presented last week that seemed to hit home. It broke down where every bit of where our tax dollars go based on $100 expended. We run through $27.70 on defense and veterans, $23.39 on Social Security, and $22.23 on healthcare in the form of Medicare, Medicaid and others. That’s $73.22 before we even get rolling. Let’s assume we can’t touch any of this and that leaves us with $26.78 to spare. A king’s ransom to be sure.
Getting out my old fashioned straight razor and working the strop I can’t wait to dive in. Let’s completely cut out food stamps($2.39) housing ($1.35) and education ($1.32) for $5.06. That is not scaling back but eliminating entirely. There is blood everywhere by decapitating foreign aid ($.97) and agriculture subsidies ($.85). That’s a grand total of $6.38 for all of the above. I am more bloodied than a coroner at a train wreck but I have this sinking feeling I can’t get below the dermis before I hit muscle.
We have got to be able to get some other pound of flesh. Aha! Let’s try the Department of Transportation. They come in at $2.65 of our national C Note. The budget for 2014 hovers around $91 billion. Being quick of wit and fleet of mind I wander over to the website. Do this at your own risk. The first several paragraphs describe platitudes and dream shots which should not be surprising except when they say they are “creating ladders of opportunity for all Americans.” Then it hits me all at once why we have runaway government and ever increasing deficits.
DOT covers the gamut from highways to rail to seaports to airports to public transit to pipelines to of course the St. Lawrence Seaway. They spend $2.45 billion on highway safety alone. They have a congestion mitigation and air quality program. They spend $320 million on metropolitan transit planning. JUST PLANNING! They spend $1.2 billion on Federal lands and tribal transportation. This agency which accounts for about 2.5% of the national budget has their mitts in every conceivable aspect of government. As I go through every item I have this eerie feeling of looking over my shoulder to see the EPA, the Department of Labor and Commerce coming in the back door or over the transom to get their little piece of the action…..and with a totally separate budget.
Now kids I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer but I see how this all happens. The future is not in plastics Mrs. Robinson but fiefdoms. There is the lifetime bureaucrat who gets assigned this new department. He or she gets staff, office space and support. They are the the reigning force (MFWIC), which of course translates to power. Now they are funded and overseen by some committee in Congress which has chairperson, staff and jurisdiction. But that in and of itself can be confusing so we have lots of these overlapping one another in the unending quest of turf and importance…..and power. And power brings the tithings of industry through lobbyists and you now see why this is basically unfixable short of a well placed nuclear warhead.
Mind you I did not take on the DOD or Health and Human Services although right now with the departure of Mrs. Sabelius the time might be right. There is not enough scotch in northern Florida for me to attempt that perilous journey. It boggles my mind and at the same time really pisses me off that we cannot stop this runaway train. Please don’t tell me it’s Obama. This little show has been running for 50 years and every one is complicit.
A close friend of mine sent me some research he has been doing for a reunion he is running. It looks at all the legislation and some breathtaking cultural changes we have made as country in the last half century. Civil Rights, Medicare, Medicaid, War on Poverty, advances in medicine, the fall of Russia, the emergence of China, the Internet, nuclear proliferation et alia. These are earthshaking and some are deemed failures but they have all been crammed into a relatively short period of time.
When this happens so fast we rarely sit back and take stock. We don’t clean house and empty the closets of worn out ideas or unused tools. We somehow want to plunge forward without understanding the implications of all this. We could never have envisioned the scope and length of Medicare benefits way back when. Equal pay and equal rights may have set the stage for the breakdown of marriage and the traditional family. Who would have thunk?.
For the past fifteen years the budgetary process has gotten completely out of whack. In many ways it reflects our personality as a country. Instant gratification, brash and arrogant, eat drink and be merry, I want mine. Pick your poison or make your own choice. Either way like any good drunk we have to look in the mirror and say we have a problem. Tax Day is a sobering bit of reality. Maybe this should be a good starting point.
Ted The Great
The first income tax was levied during the Civil War. Imagine that. George W countered that theory by waging war on two fronts and not only did not raise taxes but cut them. But then again the oil revenues were going to pay for the war in Iraq and the budget would be balanced by 2015. What was I thinking?
There re over 500 separate tax forms that can be used. That probably is the reason we have over 1.2 tax preparers in this country. Think of that. We have as many in the tax army as we have in all of our armed forces. About 65% of the country has their taxes prepared by someone else. We spend well over $600 billion per year on avoiding taxes. Do you really think these dudes want it simplified?
The highest tax rate ever was during WWII when it ranged from 23-91%. It is a little bizarre that we celebrate a “refund” because it actually represents the fact we paid too much in the first place.