Here’s Your Bill for 2010

Some liberal web sites have been distributing a purported bill for an average taxpayer, asking, “What part do you not want to pay for?” They’re implying that the Tea Parties are making a fuss about nothing, that the tab for government services is quite reasonable. The bill is meretricious, using 2007 data, taking a family that owes only $5,000 in taxes, and then showing items that add up to far less.

I thought it might be interesting to see what the federal government has spent in fiscal 2010 for an average family of four. I took total spending, divided by the population of the United States to get per capita numbers, and then multiplied by four to get a bill for government services for a family of four. Amounts are rounded to the nearest dollar. The list is incomplete; the items don’t add up to the total precisely.

Steel yourself. I was shocked by these numbers. Keep in mind that they’re only federal spending; state and local governments, combined, spend almost as much.

This is what the federal government spent, apportioned to an average family of four:

Social Security $10,027
National defense 9,313
Medicare 5,920
Medicaid 4,341
Welfare 3,705
Unemployment 2,516
Interest 2,432
Veterans 1,615
Transportation 1,379
Education K-12 1,089
Housing assistance 997
Mortgage assistance 721
Education, general 680
Foreign aid 534
Medical research 482
Agriculture 430
General government 396
Police 373
Community development 369
Environmental protection 311
Higher education 264
Basic research 241
Courts 238
Energy 199
Water supply 161
Foreign military aid 128
Prisons 100
Public health 57
Recreation 52
Total $48,180

That’s just about the median family income. It gives a new relevance to this joke about tax simplification:

UPDATE: Add in state and local government spending and the tab comes to over $80,000!

3 thoughts on “Here’s Your Bill for 2010

  1. The director of this movie was just on with Dennis Miller on the radio. Looks very much in line with your post.

  2. philo,

    Please confirm your denominator when calculating the per capita federal expenditure: did you divide by the total US population (including children, the retired, the unemployed, etc.), or the total present work force?

    If the former, and if I read the SSA[1] data correctly, given that the total US population as of 1/1/2009 was 305.5 million[2], this means that the ratio of total federal expenditures to total federally taxable (private sector?) income was 2.5?! And if the ratio to income was that high, how much higher was the ratio to tax *revenue*?! (Individual and payroll taxes, which are closely tied to income levels, together represented 85% of federal 2009 tax revenue[3].)

    If the latter, then the ratio is closer to 1.2, I think – better, but still fiscally absurd.


  3. I divided by the total US population, which is currently about 309 million. This year’s federal spending is about 3.7 trillion, which gives slightly over $12,000 per capita. GDP is around 15 trillion, which is close to $50,000 per capita.

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