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As April 15th looms again (it seems to come every year), all the same old articles appear about taxes, budgets, deficits, government spending, and the inequities in the universe. This year, Ben Casnocha sent me a link to an article from the LA Times titled Tax and spend with a twist with a note saying "I think you expressed a similar sentiment awhile back."
Indeed I did. I dutifully pay my taxes every year, yet I feel helpless when I think about how the government spends my tax receipts (and all the other tax receipts they get – which appears to be about $1.2 trillion this year according to the LA Times article.) Yeah, I know I can vote (I do) and I can get involved in influencing my little corner of the universe (I try), but I don’t feel like I have any impact on how any of this money gets
A college friend mentioned the idea to me 20+ years ago that everyone should get a line item allocation when they paid their taxes. His idea was that you’d essentially create your own spending plan for your taxes and the government would have to honor it.
While I love the "vote my taxes" idea, Adams and Hamilton wouldn’t like this very much since it shifts a lot of power back to the individual. So, how about an intermediate step – a category allocation that the government has to publish in aggregate. Everyone gets to allocate their taxes across 20 categories when they pay their taxes. The IRS aggregates all this information anonymously and publishes the macro data.
Step one would be to get this information out there. Let’s show our politicians how "the country" thinks about how our tax dollars are spent. Guns? Butter? Or maybe education.
Happy day before tax day.