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Taxpayer Receipt: educating Americans on how their money is spent

While Congress wraps up its debate on how much to cut this year from non-security discretionary programs – which constitute only 12 percent of the federal budget –Representatives Jim Cooper (D-TN), Aaron Schock (R-IL), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Todd Platts (R-PA), and Dave Reichert (R-WA) have introduced H.R. 1527, “The Taxpayer Receipt Act,” based on a proposal put forward by the think tank Third Way last year, aimed at better informing the public both about how their tax dollars are spent and the sheer magnitude of America’s debt problem.

Under H.R. 1527, the IRS, acting in conjunction with the Department of Treasury, would be required to issue each taxpayer a “receipt” detailing how much his or her tax dollars are funding various government functions and the size of each American’s share of U.S. debt. The receipt will break down each taxpayer’s total tax payment into twenty to thirty notable categories. Americans will be able to see, in other words, exactly how much of their individual tax dollars they contributed towards Social Security, national defense, Medicare, education, etc.

By displaying clearly how the federal government is spending each individual’s tax dollars, hopefully Americans will become more educated about the makeup of the federal budget. A series of recent polls have highlighted just how out-of-touch much of the American public is regarding the size, scope, and make-up of the budget. In fact, one of these polls found that Americans think that 25% of the federal budget is spent on foreign aid – when in reality, that number is less than 1%.

This bipartisan group of Representatives should be applauded for their efforts to educate the public. Issuing “taxpayer receipts” can provide American citizens with a broader understanding of federal spending, and help demonstrate that major entitlement programs – not discretionary spending, or foreign aid – are the major drivers of large national deficits.

By clearly laying out the size and scope of our debt, maybe the “taxpayer receipt” can help Americans realize that there are no simple solutions to our debt problem.

For more on the taxpayer receipt, read this recent blog post.

2011-04-15 00:00:00

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