Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Where Your Tax Dollars Went

The White House blog now contains an interactive page where you can enter the amount you paid in taxes (or a hypothetical amount someone else might have paid in taxes, for research purposes) and get a display of what the money might have been spent on:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/2011-taxreceipt?utm_source=040412&utm_medium=topper2&utm_campaign=daily

If you've ever worked for the federal government, you know how to translate this page. A fair amount of money ostensibly dedicated to, say, processing disabled senior citizens' claims for Social Security benefits, actually went to pay a bunch of bored, resentful students to hang out in the copy room, making...well, when I was one of them, I made copies of knitting and embroidery pattern charts, from library books, for future personal use. And I have actually used some of them. For profit. And I have no idea who made copies of the obscene cartoons that were taped to the windows of Metro trains.

The higher the GS rating goes, the more money is involved, and the more creatively the bored and resentful workers can spend it...because it's absolutely forbidden for them to admit that they didn't really need as much money as they could possibly get, or won't need more money next year.

In a vibrant, booming economy it didn't--and still doesn't--seem terribly bad that tax dollars are being used to pay young working people to enliven their dreary pink-collar jobs with a bit of fun. Most of it was harmless fun as I recall. Some of it was even productive; I didn't do typing for my private business clients on federal computers, but some people did, and some people launched other kinds of legitimate small businesses on a low budget in a federal office. But in the kind of cash-strapped economy into which overspending is propelling us...maybe all government employees should be made directly accountable to taxpayers and closely monitored for any evidence that time, money, or supplies might be wasted.