The Tax Man Cometh — and Taketh

If you’re like most Americans, you woke up on April 18 dazed and sore, a victim of the not-so-gentle attentions of the U.S. Tax Man.

But now that he’s left with your wallet and your dignity, what is he going to spend your hard-earned but easily surrendered money on? What exactly is Uncle Sam going to do with all the cash he collected in his annual, anti-Santa- like dash across the country?

Thanks to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, we have a handy breakdown of federal tax revenues and expenditures, including USA Today-esque pie charts (mmmm….pie), which shows a couple of surprising and depressing things.

For one, those who think that all those foreign wars being fought by our large and professional warrior class are bankrupting the country are dead wrong. “Defense and International Security Assistance” accounts for only 20 percent of the federal budget (all numbers are for 2011) totaling $718 billion, of which only $159 billion was allocated for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, whether you think that number could be higher or lower, few would argue that national defense is not the fundamental province of the national government, and therefore undeserving of a significant share of national expenditures.

Something else a lot of conservatives and liberals can agree deserves a share of federal spending is national transportation infrastructure (this is debatable), which indeed accounts for 3 percent of the federal budget. That takes care of guns and roads, which every nation needs. Unfortunately, any further forays into Budget Land gets us into more and more controversial territory. Conservatives think we spend too much on education, and they’re right, but that still only takes 2 percent of federal spending. Liberals think we should spend more on scientific research, and they’re right, but we still spend a robust 2 percent on such sundries.

Now we get to the big boys, the Entitlement programs which by far consume the vast majority of federal dollars. In fact, entitlements combine to devour a whopping 54 percent of the entire budget. Social Security alone takes 20 percent, or $731 billion. The insurance programs Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) together total another 21 percent, or $769 billion. Other safety net programs, food stamps, housing assistance, school meals, etc. combine to take another 13 percent, or $466 billion.

It would be nice if we had the money for all of these programs, of course, but we don’t. Which brings us to the last major slice of the federal budget pie — interest payments. You see, last year the government only raised $2.3 trillion in tax revenue, but spent $3.6 trillion. The balance, of course, was borrowed, which behavior explains why 6 percent of our budget, $230 billion, went to paying interest on our shameful national debt.

We are literally borrowing money to make interest payments on borrowed money. And yet still we throw more than half our federal dollars at an Entitlement State that has produced neither prosperity nor security, but has instead turned millions of Americans into serfs to the national bureaucracy.