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Mapping your tax dollars or pounds at work

Via those observant followers of tech weirdness, Boing Boing, here is an electronic map that identifies where US bailout money gets spent. I am not quite sure of the accuracy of the plots, but cynics will have their views confirmed that a lot of bailout money seems to be clustered in politically sensitive places.

Whatever the flaws, I am all in favour of such “gimmicks” if they help people to visualise the scale of the state, taxes, and so on. For example, I support the way the UK’s Adam Smith Institute and others make a point about “tax freedom day”, the day in the year when you cease to work for the state and your earnings go to you. Such things can ram home just what government costs in way that no amount of elegantly written treatises can do.

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14 comments to Mapping your tax dollars or pounds at work

  • RRS

    I have long been a recurrent advocate of eliminating the source withholding taxes in the U S., and requiring physical acts of payment, or better yet, taking money into the employer for forwarding, or posting it to the source if not from employment.

    I have also suggested periodic suspensions, to be covered by advance deposits. Anything to demonstrate the weight of taxes taken.

    No takers.

    Instead we are about to embark on general VAT in the U S, as another sneak attack on the productivity of individuals.

    Much as I have urged VAT as a total substitute for business entity taxes (under the pass-through theory); and did so as far back when it was called T V A and I had been the associate of Kennedy’s IRS Commisioner; I abhorred its stealth nature and potential for political abuses and favoritism.

    But, enough from me, the goose must be plucked, squawks not withstanding.

  • RRS:

    the goose must be plucked, squawks not withstanding.

    The plucking seems to be nearly over, it is now the butcher’s turn – will the goose peck his eyes out?

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Alisa: ask me Wednesday. Here in Maine we have a referendum item up, TABOR II, that restricts the rate of state government spending growth. It’s the third time in about six years that a similar measure has been up and both times before, the state’s Establishment (government, business organizations, media) was squarely against the measure and the voters went along.

    This time it looks like the measure may pass even though the Establishment is as against it as ever. If it does, then maybe it’ll be time for the butcher to worry about his eyes.

  • Brad

    I have heard that the stimulus money that has made it to my state of Wisconsin has saved approximately 8,300 jobs ………… 6,000 of them STATE employee jobs.


  • But who can doubt the politically motivated distribution of the bailout money?

  • lucklucky

    Hillary Clinton:

    ““The percentage of taxes on GDP (in Pakistan) is among the lowest in the world… We (the United States) tax everything that moves and doesn’t move, and that’s not what we see in Pakistan,” she said….”


  • Alice

    “Such things can ram home just what government costs in way that no amount of elegantly written treatises can do.”

    To add to RRS’s suggestion — it is noticeable that most self-employed people are much more vexed about taxes than employees. Because they start with all their income in their own account, and then have to write a check to the goverment. That really makes them notice the amount.

    Of course, in an ideal world, everybody would receive 100% of his earnings and then have to go down to the DMV and stand in line to pay the tax in cash.

  • James Waterton

    Making people pay their tax in cash is a neat idea from RSS, but three words spring to mind in response. Those three words are NOT, GONNA and HAPPEN.

  • Well of course, he did say that there were no takers, and I’m sure he is no longer wondering why.

  • Tax freedom day is good, then two of them, then three, right up to 365 of them.

  • Paul Marks

    Hillary Clinton is distorting things (no suprise there). Ask anyone in Pakistan if the official taxes are the only forced payments they make.

    Actually you could ask the same question (and get the same gasp of astonishment and the same “of course not – actually they are not even most of what we have to pay to……”) from a Mexican or someone in most nations in Latin America (let alone Pakistan – which is even more corrupt and violent).

    On the stimulus spending (almost a trillion Dollar violation of the Bastiat “what is seen and what is unseen” rule – i.e. they are ignoring the fact the almot trillion Dollars has to come from somewhere, and even if just created by the Federal Reseve this money will have a real cost) the main spending is targeted for 2010 (so much for “a quick stimulus to get the economy moving again”) and is designed to save the Democrats in the midterm elections.

    Assuming all goes as planned (a big assumption) that means 2011 and 2012 (the spending will continue but most of the money will be gone) will be interesting – especially as the new health care TAXES start to kick in then (if Obamacare passes).

    On Maine:

    Good luck.

    Of course the Economist (J.P. knows how much I love that publication) will try and make sure attention goes on the “gay marriage” vote on the same day. Just as it tried to pretend that the anit Dede pro Hoffman (by the way he faces a tough project trying to get people to vote for the third party person on that ballot paper) movement was about “social issues” (not Dede’s support for the “Stimulus” wild spending).

    This is because establishment “free market” people like to keep the debate on “social issues” so as to avoid discussion of things like the “stimulus” wild government spending.

    For if the discussion moves on to bailouts (like TARP) and government wild “stimulus” spending, it soon becomes clear that establishment people are not “free market” at all.

  • Laird

    Sorry, PFP, it looks like TABOR II lost in Maine. I guess the day was not an unalloyed victory for the forces of fiscal conservatism.

  • Paul Marks

    Three times the people of Maine have been offered the choice of limiting the growth of government, and three times they have refused this choice.

    It is almost biblical in how they have damned themselves.

    No more “the special interests tricked us” (no matter how much they spent on ads), you have decided.

    Now if you wish to see the source of your future suffering – look in the mirror.

  • Laird

    What can you say about a state which elects (and re-elects) the likes of Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins? Is anyone really surprised that they again rejected TABOR II? The only surprise is that they also rejected same-sex marriage.