What We Pay For (.com)

In this election season, chances are you’re encountering people who have suddenly left behind their quiet tolerance of the past ten years of war, privatization of government and corporate suffocation of the public interest. Something about the Obama White House (gee, what could it possibly be?) has energized a pale, flabby army of civics illiterates to wander upon the national stage, bringing misspelled signs and three-corner hats riding skulls packed full of lies absorbed from the country’s immensely powerful business propaganda apparatus.

Predictably, their absence from the scene for ten years has not exactly honed their chops.  What’s on their minds?  The permanent war economy?  Corporate capture of government?  Decaying civil liberties?

Nope. “Death panels”.  “Socialism”.  Being “Taxed Enough Already”. Big Gubmint ladling out a living to dirty, violent immigrants and other nonwhites.

Theirs is a civics reduced to an interminable stream of childish babble about fantasy boogeymen. It’s not “as if” the words they scrawl or wail don’t matter to them.  It’s actually true: they don’t.  Like young children, the reassuring sound of their own voice is enough. Hold them to any higher standard than that — ask them to prove any of the ridiculous things they say, and listen as the circular reasoning and fantasy persecutions mount into a self-reinforcing loop of clueless self-pity that grows in volume as it moves away from the planet.

Proving that sitting on your ass in front of Fox News for ten years does not magically grant one an education in economics, the critique they offer of taxation is simply jaw-dropping.  In between sucks on government-subsidized asthma inhalers, Medicare recipients advocate for the end of Medicare.  FHA loan borrowers scream for the end of government involvement in markets (that they apparently could not participate in without Uncle’s help). These kitchen-table Roubinis use “billions” and “trillions” interchangeably and don’t even notice that one is one thousand times larger than the other.   To them, their ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.

Obviously that idea is nonsense.  But wouldn’t it be great to easily prove it?

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to put in an annual salary – yours, theirs, anyone’s – and run it against the US Government’s Office of Management and Budget figures to spell out exactly what we pay for  – and what we don’t – when we pay taxes?

Wouldn’t it be great to point out “Gee, that subsidized Rascal scooter you’re riding due to your weight problem costs a lot more than the $274.00 you paid in taxes this year for your share of Grants To States For Medicaid. Why do you hate the free market?”

Or maybe “Hey, thanks so much for your sudden concern about Big Gubmint, Mr. Angry. Not sure where you’ve been since 2003, but did you know that at your $35K a year salary, you’ve kicked in about $10,000 out of your own pocket to buy fighter planes to get into dogfights with…guys hiding in caves?”

This is exactly what you can expect from the incredibly awesome site WhatWePayFor.com. It takes an annual salary figure, figures out the taxes, and then apportions the money to every one of the 137 categories/programs in the real Office of Management and Budget databases.

Thanks much to Reddit for the link – and thanks to the site builders for their theory:

You and I are being psychologically disconnected from our government. This happens through language, education, and both the application and complexity of our tax system. As we’ve been disconnected, special interests have gained increasing influence in our place and government has become increasingly inefficient with the reduction of our attention. It is, however, possible to close the psychological gap that exists, to reconnect with our government and ensure an efficient democracy. To do so, we must create a relation between our government and ourselves. One in which we can objectively see how the actions of our government relate to our direct contribution. The most direct way is by seeing where the money you pay in taxes is spent. We’re all shareholders who are personally invested in our government and our country. By understanding our contribution and role, we can make our government better for us all.

1 Response to “What We Pay For (.com)”

  1. October 1, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    Thank you for this amazing write up.


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rob [at] warmowski [dot] com

@warmowski on twitter

Rob’s Bands

Rob Warmowski entry at Chicago Punk Database
1984-89: Defoliants
1991-94: Buzzmuscle
2001-05: San Andreas Fault
2008- : Sirs
2008- : Allende

Rob at Huffington Post

October 2010

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