By John Burbank
If you’re anything like me, you spent part of this week doing your income taxes. Or maybe you’re delaying that task until the weekend. It’s not a very pleasant way to spend your weeknights or your weekend, but those are the wages of procrastination for citizens like me.
When you pay your taxes, you may be thinking, not kindly, “More money for the government.” A lot of people share that sentiment. But what we don’t acknowledge is that without government, we could not survive, as a nation, as families, as individuals, as businesses, as workers, as citizens, as human beings. And government is not free. It is not manna from heaven. We have to pay for the public services that government provides.
So where does our federal income tax money go? Turn on your computer and be thankful that the government funded the research that resulted in the internet, particularly through the work of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation. I recommend you go to the National Priorities Project website and see for yourself: bit.ly/Ivg31N.
(First you might want to check the weather forecast and thank the National Weather Service, which also was funded with your tax dollars.)
You might decide to mull this over coffee, so you brew a pot and add some milk. You have no question that these food products are safe. That doesn’t just happen — it’s thanks to the web of food safety regulations and inspections provided through the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. You enable that service with your taxes.
If you decide to have some bacon with your eggs, you can trust that you won’t get trichinosis thanks to the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. If you take a pill for high blood pressure, as I do, you aren’t worried about side effects and complications or shoddy production standards. You know that the Food and Drug Administration oversees the manufacturing of this drug and insures that it is safe and effective. That’s your taxes at work … for you.
The responsibilities of government literally enable our kids to go to school and allow us to work in safe environments, benefit from workplace standards, drink clean water, and have peace of mind in a civil society.
Many of these services are provided through the state and local governments. Many more are provided through the federal government. That is why we pay income taxes.
If you pay $10,000 in federal income taxes, the military receives $2,700. That includes Naval Station Everett, as well as Boeing production of military aircraft. For better or worse, it also includes $68 for nuclear weapons. All told, federal spending for defense procurement brings back to Snohomish County $481 for every single resident.
Another $2,140 of your federal income tax goes to health care, including Medicare and Medicaid. One result is that more than 2 million people are covered by Medicare and Medicaid in our state. That’s government health insurance covering almost one-third of all residents.
Of this $10,000 in income taxes, $1,220 goes to unemployment insurance, job training, disability coverage and Social Security. Another $440 goes to veterans for education, training and rehabilitation. Transportation — mainly roads — gets $130.
Science research gets $100. Snohomish County businesses received more than $5 million from the federal government last year for projects in renewable energy research and development.
The food stamp program gets $269, providing a lifeline for many unemployed Americans in this dismal economy. That enables three quarters of a million residents to not go hungry in our state. Federal funding for the school lunch program guarantees that more than 500,000 Washington kids can eat at school and are not fighting hunger when they’re trying to learn.
From research to food safety to health coverage to education to nutrition, from the weather forecast service to the internet, your income taxes pay for the web of public services that enable businesses to grow, kids to learn, and all citizens to realize some sense of personal and economic security.
Government is fundamental for our existence. In fact, government is good for you. That may be hard to swallow for some folks, but think about that when you write that check for your income taxes. And don’t forget — tax day is Tuesday. Be a proud American — pay your taxes!
John Burbank is executive director of the Economic Opportunity Institute (www.eoionline.org). His email address is email@example.com.