Send In Your War Taxes

Today’s the big day. Along with the rest of us, you’ve either sent in your pound of flesh, will do so today, or did so all of last year and are now supposed to be happy to get some back — without interest.

Paying taxes is never fun, but it would be a lot better if you felt that you received something for your money. If you had a health care card in your wallet, wouldn’t you feel better as you sent in your taxes? If you could pull out a report listing your taxpayer education credits redeemable at any university, wouldn’t you feel better as you sent in your taxes?

You have neither of those. What do you have instead?

I found on this morning’s SnapSheet (now under new editorial direction and looking sharp) the following:

The United States Department of the Treasury expects to fill its coffers with an estimated $2.5 trillion in tax revenue in 2008. According to information released by the IRS, the average American household paid $22,100 in federal taxes in 2007.

The rest of the story is from the Hoover Institution, and it refers to a piece that two of its members wrote for the Wall Street Journal in which they note that “the increased government spending and tax increases proposed by some of the presidential candidates will ‘drive the personal income tax burden up by 25% — to its highest point relative to GDP in history.'”

So, you’re paying a lot in taxes and you’re probably going to end up paying a lot more. Where does it all go?

The U.S. is $9,400,000,000,000 ($9.4 trillion) in debt. The interest on that debt costs us more than the war in Iraq. The war in Iraq costs us more than every single government agency and department except Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense.

What does HHS do? According to its web site:

HHS represents almost a quarter of all federal outlays, and it administers more grant dollars than all other federal agencies combined. HHS’ Medicare program is the nation’s largest health insurer, handling more than 1 billion claims per year. Medicare and Medicaid together provide health care insurance for one in four Americans.

That’s interesting. Four out of four Americans pay the taxes, and one out of four Americans receive health care insurance for them. What happens to the money that could be used to buy health care insurance for the other three out of four Americans?

That’s where we run smack dab into the interest on the debt and the Department of Defense. That’s basically the whole story in the U.S. We all pay taxes through the nose, a quarter of us get health care insurance, the rest of us pay for debt interest and wars.

The Iraq war costs $341 million per day and has brought to American taxpayers (minus the 4,000-plus who paid with their lives) the following results:

  • Record high oil and gas prices.

If I missed any, let me know.

The situation led Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky to say over the weekend: “Across America, our roads and bridges are crumbling and are in desperate need of repair, yet taxpayer dollars are being squandered on an Iraqi government that is riddled with waste, fraud and corruption. The cost of one month in Iraq could extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which the president vetoed, to 10 million children of working families for a full year.”

John Broder wrote yesterday in the New York Times:

Even if the country can afford the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or, as Mr. Bush and Mr. McCain assert, cannot afford not to fight them, the amounts being spent on the conflict are of a scale that war critics say would allow the country to address what they see as more compelling problems.

At the low end of estimates of the cost of the war — $120 billion a year — the money would cover the projected cost of Mrs. Clinton’s universal health care plan. It could pay for Mr. Obama’s less inclusive health care plan and his proposal to bail out homeowners with troubled mortgages. Or for development of new renewable energy sources and a nationwide public works program. Or pay toward a long-term fix for Social Security. Or the unpaid part of the Medicare drug benefit.

We should all just take a deep breath as we sign our checks to the Treasury. We knew this was coming, after all. President Eisenhower warned us in his farewell speech on January 17, 1961:

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Since nobody reads history anymore, that “alert and knowledgeable citizenry” is about as helpful as the tooth fairy.

So the wars with no purpose will continue, military contractors will get rich, and you will get poor paying more taxes next year than this.

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