See Where Your Federal Taxes Go

We’re all doing our taxes, if we haven’t done them already.  While the numbers are fresh in your mind, find out where the money you’re paying Uncle Sam will go, using this handy tool on the White House website: The 2011 Federal Taxpayer Receipt.

Plug in the amounts you paid this year for income tax, Medicare, and Social Security, and you’ll see a “receipt” showing how your money is distributed, with exact percentages and dollar amounts.  It’s yet another way to gauge the relative size of various federal programs and commitments and their relation to you.

Oil painting by Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1620-40) entitled Paying the Tax

Image: Pieter Brueghel the Younger, “Paying the Tax,” (1620-1640),
courtesy USC Fischer Museum of Art via Wikimedia.

Cartoons & Posters From the History of US Taxation, Tax History Project.
Help Understanding the Budget

Help Understanding the Budget

I have trouble thinking about the federal budget.  The numbers are too big.  I have pretty good math ability, so if I have trouble with it, I suspect a lot of other people do, too.  Maybe even many of our legislators in Congress!  (I would not want to be on the budget committee.)

So I was really glad to find this cool interactive graphic on the New York Times website showing President Obama’s proposed budget for 2013.  The graphic shows all the huge and tiny (relatively tiny that is–even a tiny part of the budget can have $1 billion in funding) expenditures the government makes yearly.  The colors of the bubbles show the cuts and increases that are proposed.  There’s also an empty circle representing the size of the deficit we’re running, so you can see it in relation to the budget as a whole.

If you click on the buttons above the graph, the bubbles regroup to show the parts of spending that the budget can’t control.  Looking at the graph makes you realize that nearly 70 percent of our budget obligations are mandated, while 30 percent are discretionary.  It’s interesting to see that President Obama is asking that many discretionary parts of the budget be increased, instead of being frozen.  According to this article from US News, Congress has already established that it may run a deficit of up to $1.047 trillion in 2013.

I’m far from being a budget radical, but I can understand why people are in revolt about the size and complexity of the government’s activities.  When you move the cursor over this picture of the government and look at the different obscure programs and how much they cost, you do start to wonder whether they are all necessary.

Click here for the graphic discussed: Four Ways to Slice President Obama’s 2013 budget.