Let’s talk about government spending, taxes, and government debt.
Maybe not sexy topics, but if we never actually talk about it - nothing changes because over-spending as gone on as long as I can remember.
First -- a truth, we cannot spend our way out of debt. For the record, Biden’s 1.9 trillion dollar Covid “rescue” plan is going to make ALL these current debt numbers increase. Please don’t stop here and think this is just an anti-Biden post. The debt and excessive spending happened under Trump, Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and so on. Democrats and Republicans.
For those of you who know me well- you know I find most taxes akin to armed robbery. Government forces people to pay them by threat. If you do not pay your taxes, the government sends armed people to arrest you and take away your freedom.
Then people we vote in to be the voice of the people generally end up increasing our debt. But for the sake of this blog post, let’s pretend we all agreed to take on the massive waste the government has spent our money on. And let’s pretend we have not all fallen prey to the mindset that it’s some other person’s responsibility, not mine!
I am not an accounting expert, a tax lawyer, or a lying politician who pretends we don’t all owe the money of our public debt. Nor am I a Socialist or Communist who does not believe in personal property or individual responsibility.
I bring a balance sheet mindset to this. I like budgets, like my home budget, that show I take in more than I spend. I work to pay down, not increase, debt, and I put some in savings for emergencies.
Looking at how much the government spends in our name annually gives you an idea of how much in taxes the government needs to collect (per person) to break even. To find these numbers, I checked government budgets and census data. They are open records. You can all look for yourself.
What were the expenses when looked at per person? (Note - not spent on that person. Some people cost more than others, like prison inmates, college students on government financial programs, and those whose main support is government assistance programs.) Plus we give away and loan a lot of money to foreign countries. I was going to say with no reasonable explanation, but there are reasons. After reading Confessions of an Economic Hitman, by John Perkins, in 2004, I no longer believe there’s “no reason.”
So what amount is spent on behalf of each US citizen annually? I am using my county, city & state as examples: Bexar County, City of San Antonio, State of Texas. Your actual amount will be determined by where you live:
US apx $14,500
Texas apx $4,000
Bexar County apx $1,200
CoSA apx $1800
Taxes paid —Taxes governments collect include the big three: income, property, and sales taxes. Through our incomes we also pay Social Security and Medicaid. Some other taxes collected include user fees to National and State parks, hunting and fishing licenses, car registrations, professional licenses, etc.
Income is self explanatory as we fill out annual reports to the IRS. Sales taxes include all those paid when buying anything taxable, but especially big ticket items, like cars and houses. Maybe some people keep a running total of what they’ve paid in sales taxes annually but I don’t. The number is a rounding of sales taxes collected divided by number of people. That figure rounds to $5,000 annually.
The average American income tax rate is 24 percent of income, but that’s not an honest look because the majority of income taxes are collected from the top one percent of income earners.
Median income tax collected is about 12 percent. Plus that is percentage not amounts. This is a rabbit hole to figure. But each person can look at their income tax documents themselves. They can answer for themselves and their families if the amount of total tax withheld is equal to $16,800 ($21,800-$5,000) each person in your family?
Average Federal Income tax paid 2019 was $15,000, so it’s a pretty sure bet your answer is no - you have not paid the average nor the amount needed to cover your share of the spending. (Median total paid is about $10,000 collected per household. But even the median household does not actually pay this. This is because the top 50 percent of earned income pay 97 percent of income taxes collected.)
If you are not paying at least $21,800 in taxes, per year, per individual in your family (income, property & sales), you are being carried by someone else.
(Full disclosure, that includes me. My income is nowhere near the top.)
It’s a pretty good bet that you, dear reader, like me, are helping increase the debt, and you should be looking for ways that the government could decrease spending. If you want an actual view of the National debt & your share of it, go to https://www.usdebtclock.org/ The numbers are scary. I owe more on my share of National debt ($84,000) as shown on the debt clock than I do on my house.
Although some people want other people to pay more without cutting wasteful spending. I do not like this approach because I do not believe it is fair. I have also been watching New Yorkers and Californians fleeing this type of increase-taxes-only-for-the-rich system, especially recently.
They don’t want to carry that many people who are not paying their share of costs. I don’t blame them. I know not everyone can pay the full amount, but every adult should pay some. No one should ever, for any reason, get more income tax back than they paid in.
To work toward balancing the budget, Ilike the cut-spending approach. When I do my budget at home and the cost of necessary things rises, I cut back on other things. It is a common sense approach.
Hey, government, stop giving money away stupidly on my behalf! Start with money to foreign countries while the US Debt grows and our borrowing from other countries leaves us vulnerable, then stop funding stupid research projects. End the wars. Cut back on who the government employs and on redundant agencies.
As far as wasted money for research - let me be clear. Not all research is wasteful. NASA does some great work with research money, developing usable items like tire treads that benefit us all. Some universities and science agencies have produced research that helps the US tremendously. I understand that the government gives monies to “trusted” universities, but when the universities allow that to be used for incredibly stupid research projects, perhaps they should completely lose their “trusted” status.
Senator Rand Paul does an annual Festivus Report on wasteful spending. It’s good information and available to view on the internet (a product of government research funding). This year, the report shows $54 billion in wasteful spending, including research projects.
Wasteful research? You ask. Well, I personally do not care what San Franciscans think of their edible cannabis products - or why stress makes people’s hair turn gray - or how long a lizard can walk on a treadmill. Maybe you do?
How I wish I were fabricating these research projects your tax money funded at these “trusted” universities.
So, what are some other fair means to even out this tax mess and get a handle on government spending and debt? (And think, reader, I’ve only addressed the national debt and wasteful spending.) I haven’t even mentioned school, city, county, or state “Bond” projects. They too are public debt.
You - as a member of the public - own - your share of that debt too! I live in San Antonio, not one of the top ten most in-debt cities in the US. If I lived in New York City, my share of the city debt would be more than $60,000! (after New York, Chicago, Honolulu, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Oakland, Portland, San Francisco, Baltimore, and Cincinnati round out the top ten in-debt cities.)
But, nationally, where could we cut spending? As stated earlier, we could spend less on our military by ending our involvement in wars. Bring our guys and gals home!
We could do away with Federal Agencies that are redundant to state ones, especially where the state one is the correct level for government control under the Constitution. (Examples include the Department of Education, Department of Housing and Human Services, and the Environmental Protection Agency.)
If we instituted a flat tax, we could eliminate more than half the IRS.
We could stop paying former and “retired” legislators big salaries plus travel expenses. (I don’t think any politician should be able to retire from their elected service, especially not when they continue to draw large amounts of money. We can ensure that stops by imposing term limits.)
We could insist that every employer who is hiring an undocumented person who does not pay income tax (but let’s be clear...about 70 percent of undocumented immigrants who work pay federal, state, and local taxes out of their paycheck)! For the 30 percent paid “under the table”, the average Federal, state, county, and municipal tax share for them... apx $21,800 annually ... is being skipped. That should be the minimum fine per employee (per number of years employed) if a company or person is found to be employing someone under the table.
That includes individuals who hire domestic help under the table.
If the employers had to pay actual fair wages and taxes, maybe they could see why enticing legal residents to do the work with livable wages is a bargain. And those people with now better paying jobs help lower the deficit for all of us by paying their taxes!
By the way, we need to put a stop to unpaid labor altogether, including internships, unpaid apprenticeships when the apprentice acts as helper, and volunteers in key positions for government entities. It is a dangerous precedent to expect people to work without pay.
Don’t get me started on prisons. We could save so much by not imprisoning non-violent offenders and declassifying marijuana as a Schedule One drug! Then there’s public and private prisons who gather government money to care for prisoners, then use the inmates for labor projects. That is a whole blog post on its own. I was appalled when I learned prisoners were released to work details against the fires raging in California, but paid between $2-5 dollars A DAY!
Yes, I want less government spending. No I do not include slave labor as a reasonable cost cutting measure.
Are there other fair means of doing something about wasteful spending? Of course! And each one should be considered on its merits. But we cannot keep going on the way we have been without doing something about the excess spending and increasing debt.
I think we can all agree that some things, like parks, museums, and schools have value in and of themselves, or for how they help society as a whole as investments in our future. But someone needs to consider how much money people running a museum make, especially if that museum relies on tax money to support it. The salaries of top administrators in school districts and public universities also need review. We have caps on government employee salaries, and if a museum or school or university is accepting tax money, the person running it should not be allowed to exceed those caps.
With our collective form of government comes individual responsibility for the collective debt. I am not comfortable in keeping my eyes closed and passing that debt onto my children and grandchildren. No one should feel that is a reasonable solution.