What we get for our taxes

Old Faithful and Yellowstone are protected for our enjoyment by our taxes.

Take a look at what we get for paying our taxes

Tax Day serves as reminder of investment in public services

Tuesday, April 17, is Tax Day and, if you’re like me, you’ve been thinking about all that money we pay not just to the federal government but at the state and local level as well. It’s easy to gripe about it, but we should all think about what we get in return for our investment in public services. It’s a lot. We send our children to public schools. We know a safety and emergency services system is in place in case a prowler disturbs or fire erupts next door. The transportation system is well-designed by traffic and safety engineers. We may decide whether to drive those highways after consulting a weather report generated by the National Weather Service. In Wyoming, we invest tax revenues heavily in transportation, building a highway system that serves us well. I’m particularly in favor of passing lanes on those two-lane highways that seem so dangerous and of those snowplows that clear the divided highways like Interstate 80 and I-25. Both the state and federal government invest millions in those roads every year, trying to keep them in decent shape, in winter and summer, along with the patrol officers that enforce traffic laws and respond to disabled vehicles. But it’s Tax Day because we’ve all just paid our federal income taxes. So where does all that income tax revenue go? The National Priorities Project offers an interactive web page where you can see exactly how the federal government spends your income tax dollar. (And for a better look at the chart at right, go here.) If you paid $7,500 in federal taxes on your 2011 income, here are a few highlights:  
  • * $2,025 goes to the military. In Wyoming, think about the Air Guard and the training facility at Guernsey in addition to F.E. Warren and its servicemen and women stationed in underground silos. Another $330 goes to veterans benefits including education, training and rehabilitation.
  • Your grandparents may use Medicare insurance to help them meet their medical bills. Or perhaps you know a child kept healthy because of the KidCare CHIP program. You paid $1,605 for these programs.
  •  Science gets about $75 for research. The University of Wyoming has received millions in grant funds from the National Science Foundation.
More of your dollars go to care for and shelter the blind, the disabled, and the very poor. Other funds pay for energy and the environment, international affairs, housing, and, yes, interest on the debt. As a society, we often argue over government priorities. Some want to see more spent on the military. Others want more spent on education or science. But there’s no arguing the overall value of the services we pay for. Government research and services make it possible for business to grow because of its investment in Internet technology, satellite technology, air traffic controllers, patent and copyright protections, the court system, international trade agreements, insurance on bank accounts, and more. Together, we make certain that government offers an opportunity to get a good education. The police and the armed services keep us safe at home and abroad. The government we all pay for assures us that our food is safe and the water is clean. Paying taxes is not easy, but it serves us well. Remember that on Tax Day.

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