Wednesday, May 20, 2015

"Your tax dollars at work"

“Your tax dollars at work!”

You undoubtedly recognize this phrase. It is sometimes used as means of informing a person or persons that the government is paying for a particular project. More often than not it is used in sarcasm to express one’s frustration over the failings of our federal government.

Regardless, it begs the question…are the tax dollars we send the Washington being used in a manner that is in the best interests of the American people? A recent breakfast conversation motivated me to find out the answer to that question.

There is an old axiom that says: “you can always determine the priorities of a government by how it spends the people’s money.” If that is in fact true…and if we are to believe what the polls say are the people’s primary needs and concerns…then there are some serious changes that need to be made.

In 2014 the American people sent $3.1 trillion dollars in tax revenue to the federal government. According to the National Priorities Project each hard earned dollar that we sent to our fearless leaders was apportioned in the following manner:

Military: 27 cents
Medicare & Health: 26.5 cents
Interest on the Debt: 15.3 cents
Social Security, Unemployment & Labor: 8.4 cents
Veteran’s Benefits: 5.8 cents
Food & Agriculture: 5 cents
Government: 3.4 cents
Education: 2.5 cents
Transportation: 1.9 cents
Energy & Environment: 1.6 cents
International Affairs: 1.5 cents
Science: 1.1 cents
Housing & Community: .1 cent

If you check the math you will find that a 83 cents of every federal tax dollar goes toward funding the top five on the list: Military, Medicare/Health, Interest on Debt, Social Security/Unemployment and Veterans Benefits. What little funds that remain are spread out among the rest.

Unfortunately our federal tax dollars are insufficient to meet the country’s needs. To make up the shortfall we borrow. In 2014 the government borrowed 14 cents of every dollar spent…$492 billion in total. As of January 2015 the national debt stood at a just over $18 trillion dollars. Economists estimate that within the next ten years the federal taxes we send to the government will only be enough to fund the military, “entitlements” and interest on the debt. Everything else will have to be paid for with borrowed funds.

So we go back to the original question…given the amount of debt we continue to incur…are we spending our money wisely.

For example…we spend a significant share of our tax dollars on the military. 27 cents of every dollar plus an additional 5.8 cents on veteran’s benefits. The Iraq war…the most costly political error in our history…cost 4,500 American lives and $1.7 trillion in treasure. Estimates are that the benefits paid to Iraq war veterans over the next 40 years…and the interest expense to borrow the money necessary to pay those benefits…will cost an additional $6 trillion dollars. That’s $7.7 trillion for an ongoing mistake.

And make no mistake the Iraq war is not over.

The latest military strategy in Iraq calls for American fighter planes to conduct airstrikes against ISIS targets. Meanwhile the Iraqi Army…which the US taxpayers spent $20.2 billion to train and arm…is supposed to do the heavy lifting on the ground. The Obama administration continues to spend millions of borrowed funds on ineffective bombing raids against ISIS targets. I say ineffective because two days ago ISIS fighters retook the city of Ramadi…a city that hundreds of Americans lost their lives to secure. ISIS was able to retake Ramadi because the Iraqi Army threw down their weapons and ran.

Last Friday congress passed the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act which appropriated $89.2 billion for the military to conduct wars on our behalf. The largest air force in the world is currently manned by the United States Air Force. The second largest air force in the world is manned by the United States Navy. The US maintains 11 nuclear powered aircraft carriers. The rest of the world has 2. The US military has the capability of blowing up our enemies 10 times over. Yet we spend more. So much so that we spend more on our military than China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, the UK, India and Germany COMBINED. 27 cents of every tax dollar. And then we wonder why our children are lagging behind other industrialized countries in education (2.5 cents) and our roads, bridges, trains and airports are outdated and in disrepair (1.9 cents). We lead the world at nothing except the ability to blow things up.

I fully realize that there is more to fixing things like education, roads and bridges than simply throwing more money at them. It’s all about setting priorities, goals and a plan for the future while providing the necessary funds to succeed. We talk about leading the world but the only thing of consequence that we lead in is our ability to blow things up.

The numbers don’t lie. The priorities are clear.

"Your tax dollars at work."

Is this the road that we want to continue to follow?

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