Moderate-progressive think tank “Third Way” has an interesting proposal: provide taxpayers with an itemized receipt for the taxes they pay. Here is an example, based on the breakdown for the “median income” taxpayer in the US (earning $34,140 per year):
The authors note that the Social Security Administration already produces something like this for individual taxpayers each year – so it is both feasible, and readily attainable. This strikes me as good, transparent public policy. Pushing aside the partisan rhetoric that would inevitably accompany this kind of “full disclosure,” (imagine the wrangling over what makes the list, and the wording!) it brings perspective to our national spending priorities.
The authors point out the pervasive and persistent belief that the US spends excessively on foreign aid – more than Social Security or Medicare, when in fact it appears in 11th place on the example receipt. Interestingly, in their example it also appears directly above “Education Funding for Low Income K-12 Students.” It isn’t a stretch to see how this kind of information could lead to better discussions about how we spend our money, and the relative importance we’ve placed on one set of programs and services versus another.
One additional thought: I would love to see this implemented at a state level as well.