The Common Good

Where Do Our Tax Dollars Go?

If you’re finishing your income tax return this week, here’s some food for thought. 

The National Priorities Project provides three helpful graphs of the president’s proposed 2013 budget (see budget dashboard). The discretionary budget, the program spending on which Congress votes; the mandatory budget, programs such as Social Security and Medicare that are outside the budget process; and the total budget, combining the first two. The first graph shows, for instance, that 57 percent of the proposed discretionary budget is for the military.

When you’ve finished your return and know what your tax payment is, here is a calculator that produces a “receipt” showing how it will be spent. For an explanation, see here.

For me, tax time is that once-a-year personal realization that my priorities are not the same as the government’s. And that the political struggle to change the government’s priorities is important.