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Should Taxpayers Get Receipts?

Maybe if we got an itemized list explaining where our money went (you know, like one does at Chili's) people would understand politics better.

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Third Way, a self-described "leading moderate think tank of the progressive movement," recently put out a plan for reducing the deficit, which included this embarrassingly obvious idea. Maybe taxpayers should get a breakdown, receipt-style, that explains where their money went each year.

Here's what one might look like:

Here's the rationale, as explained by David Kendall and Jim Kessler, the authors of the policy memo:

For many Americans, the amount they pay in taxes is larger than any purchase they make during the year, but studies show they know almost nothing about where that money goes to.

This contributes to ridiculous beliefs, like the view that 20% of government spending goes to foreign aid, for example. An electorate unschooled in basic budget facts is a major obstacle to controlling the nation’s deficit, not to mention addressing a host of economic and social problems.


This is a very, very good idea, and now that it's been suggested, it seems almost crazy we don't have something like it already.

One can already calculate this information pretty easily, of course. But providing it in the form of a receipt, upon payment of taxes, would really help people understand the government's expenses and how they relate to one's personal finances.

No taxation without information!

Via Ezra Klein. Photo (cc) from Flickr user Daquella manera

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