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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press NYT Tells Us Where Our Tax Dollars Go

NYT Tells Us Where Our Tax Dollars Go

Monday, 20 January 2014 08:35

The NYT has a very nice (in substance, not appearance) chart on per person spending on a wide variety of government programs. readers would find that the military budget costs us $1,802 per person, Medicare $1,591, and Head Start $27. I was disappointed not to see TANF mentioned, which I would eyeball at around $55 per person and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting at around $1.50 per person.

Anyhow, it is great to see this chart, but this should be the standard way to express budget numbers, not something special for holidays. This is providing readers with information. Telling readers that we are projected to spend $8.1 trillion on Medicare over the next decade is just a silly fraternity ritual that budget reporters like to do. It is not informing readers.

Comments (7)Add Comment
Agreed, but let's go further
written by EMichael, January 20, 2014 9:25
Make payroll stubs show where the taxes go every payday. Make sure non W-2 workers get such a rundown every year after they file taxes. Can't cost much to do that.

Then maybe we can have a more rational discussion of the budget in the general population.

BTW, this is certainly not my idea, but I cannot remember whose idea it is.
written by JDM, January 20, 2014 9:28
It is good to see them doing this. I do gave a complaint though in that I'd like to see a little further info on the entries on food stamps, farm loans, farm subsidies and crop insurance, mentioning how many people these sums go to and how much money the recipients have. It's more money for food stamps than farm subsidies, but I suspect if people had more info about the number and wealth of the recipients they'd be more concerned about the portion going to farm subsidies.
written by urban legend, January 20, 2014 2:31
But it is misleading and potentially damaging to present Social Security as part of "the" federal budget. It is its own thing that is separate from the general budget as a matter of law.
written by The J, January 20, 2014 4:16
The chart ought to be framed as our "national priorities", as opposed to "where our tax dollars went".

Taxes create demand for the currency, but they are not a limitation on gov't spending. It's better to think of tax revenue as simply being thrown into the incinerator. Federal gov't spends new dollars into existence based on national priorities (which, of course, as all screwed up).
How is good if they left out a huge percentage of goverment expenditures?
written by Perplexed, January 20, 2014 5:17
I see nothing on the chart you're promoting here showing the per/person costs of government granted patent and copyright monopolies or government granted tax preferences. Just because the tax revenues go to private individuals (and are spent on whatever these individuals choose to spend it on) instead of being collected by the Treasury doesn't mean they don't cost anything. If economists insisted that it all be accounted for, we might not need so many Loser Liberalism articles to describe in verbiage what could so easily and clearly shown in a chart. I thought we were talking about conveying "information" here. Propaganda in chart form with per-person numbers is still just propaganda.
written by D Levy, January 21, 2014 5:07
thanks, good points, dean.

i agree. this is money that we pay in that we will get back as cash or services.

on the other hand, 'military' includes veteran's services, which brings that total to about $2,235.

when you take away the so-called entitlements, it really shows how military expenditures completely swamp all other priorities. that would really put it in context to see that enormous number compared to all the others...

written by D Levy, January 21, 2014 5:24
p.s. the software deleted the quote, i guess, b/c it was between greater and less than symbols instead of quotation marks. what i was quoting was from an earlier comment:
"it is misleading and potentially damaging to present Social Security as part of 'the' federal budget. It is its own thing that is separate from the general budget as a matter of law."

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.