It’s All Your MoneyApril 12, 2010 - 12:40 PM | by: William La Jeunesse
How much is a billion dollars? A trillion dollar federal budget? Americans don’t know because the numbers have no context. They’re just too big.
This week Fox News aims to shrink those numbers down to size with the Taxpayer Calculator.
It calculates exactly how much government spending costs taxpayers individually. It breaks down government programs in numbers people understand, in the hundreds and thousands, not millions. Finally it puts a price tag on services by allowing taxpayers to vote on programs they value.
Here’ s how it works. Take a bill like the $862-billion stimulus.
Type in your income. A pie chart pops up showing what portion of the stimulus your income group or tax bracket paid for.
It also calculates what you paid individually for the program. The median income in America is about $50,000. For those earning $30,000 – $50,000, the stimulus bill cost about $1,300. If you make $50,000- $100,ooo the amount more than doubles to more than $3,700.
At the bottom of the page, you’re asked to vote. Do you support or oppose the expenditure of your tax money on this project?
“It gives them an opportunity to find out not only what’s in legislation but how it’s going to impact them on a day-to-day basis and it’s an excellent tool for all taxpayers and it’s going to open their eyes to amount of waste, fraud and abuse and what the government is actually doing,” says Leslie Paige from Citizens Against Government Waste.
The numbers aren’t exact, because the tax code treats singles and married differently. However it is an accurate representation of the portion of any project or program paid for by those who file a tax return in that income group.
Roughly 142 million Americans will file a tax return this year. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data can be broken down to show how many taxpayers fall into each bracket, and what the share of the total tax is for each bracket. According to the IRS, the largest group of taxpayers – 37 million people – earn the least and have an effective tax rate of less than two percent.
“There are really two Americas. There is a growing class of Americans who pay no income taxes whatsoever, and there’s a shrinking group people at the top, who are paying all of the nations tax bills,” says Scott Hodge, director of the Tax Foundation. “Essentially they’re paying their tax bills as well as everyone else’s.”
All this week we’ll be using the taxpayor calculator to put a price tag on different government programs, including new earmarks being proposed in the 2011 budget and ongoing subsides – including how much the United Nations is costing you.
The hope is better informed taxpayers make for a more accountable Congress and ultimately a more responsive government.