Friday, April 17, 2009

Buyer’s Remorse?

Am I pleased with what I got for my federal tax dollars? Yes and no. (See yesterday’s blog for a chart of where the federal government spent my family’s income tax last year). On the whole, I think the priorities are about right. We need a sufficient military and we need to take care of our poorest citizens—and since we’ve already borrowed the money, then I guess we have no choice but to pay the interest on it.

On the other hand, I don’t doubt that a fair portion of money is wasted. I’ve worked at enough company’s to have a pretty good idea how efficient we are in general, and I’m pretty sure government isn’t any better than the private sector when it comes to efficiency. I am afraid we’re limited by the human condition as to how efficient we can get. I doubt much is possible to improve.

There are some costs that just seem too high to me, and a few that seem too low. Defense takes over one third of my tax money. Couldn’t we try to get that number down a little—maybe to twenty-five percent of the total. That would open up money for a number of other areas. I don’t have a problem with the amount spent on welfare benefits (you’ve got to take into consideration where I work), but at some point I’d like to look carefully at just where it’s going.

The amount spent on Medicaid and SCHIP drives me crazy though. Our whole medical system costs twice as much as it ought to, and we don’t get the benefits of good public health that we should. That affects productivity and the economy, so we lose twice.

I think we should double what we spend on Veterans—easily affordable if we cut the Defense budget a bit. I’d like to see more spending on foreign aid, if we could figure out how to do it without too much waste and corruption. I’d like to see more spent on energy (let’s find a way not to have to buy so much foreign oil). If NASA would do something cool, like send a man to Mars, then I’d be willing to pay more there. I would easily being willing to double what we spend on the Interior Department—I love the National Parks.

A friend suggested that we ought to be allowed to designate where our taxes are spent. I don’t know that that is a practical idea, but it would be interesting to see where people would put their money if they had a direct choice, rather than the indirect one of electing representatives.

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