As in every election round, taxes will be an important part of the conversation. Who should pay and how much, these are the eternal questions. But less frequently does what those taxes pay for come under scrutiny. Maybe because of this Americans are frequently confused about the reality of where those taxes go. Many people think our taxes go overwhelmingly to welfare, or foreign aid. Others believe it mainly goes to the military. These perceptions are important because they influence votes. If you think too much money is going to lazy unemployed people, you’re going vote a different way than if you think too much money is being spent on fighter jets and not enough on education. The reality of government spending is not very transparent but the following exercise will give you the opportunity to get to examine the truth of it.
The following is a break-down of how the federal budget is allocated (this is distinct from the state budgets which vary). https://www.nationalpriorities.org/budget-basics/federal-budget-101/spending/. In your multimedia, answer the following questions:
1. What percent of federal spending is mandatory? What percent discretionary? What percent of the total federal budget goes to Social Security, what percent to Medicare? What do tax breaks mean to the federal government in terms of cost? How much does the US borrow? How much does the federal government spend per person?
2. Then, compare budget proposals and how they reflect what Americans say they want here: https://www.nationalpriorities.org/analysis/2015/competing-visions-2015/
3. Finally, go to the your tax receipt under the data section and – if you pay federal taxes, plug in your number. If you don’t, enter your parents’ federal taxes and if you don’t know that, make up a number. See if the spending breaks down the way you thought it did, and if you would spend differently. (Remember education receives financing at the state level also – in California it is well below the state average at a little over 3% of spending, or a gap of about $975 per student compared with the national average)
Submit your reflections and your tax receipt