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White House Shows Taxpayers Where Their Money Went - Sort Of

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White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest (L) declined to comment on why the administration made it challenging for Americans using the service to see how much wealthy taxpayers contribute toward federal spending programs.
AlamyWhite House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest (L) declined to comment on why the administration made it challenging for Americans using the service to see how much wealthy taxpayers contribute toward federal spending programs.
On Monday, the White House rolled out "Your 2012 Federal Taxpayer Receipt," an online tool that purports to provide "a breakdown of how your tax dollars are spent on priorities like education, veterans benefits, or health care."

A few observations:

First, the receipt calculator bases its results on how much a user reports having paid in Social Security, Medicare and income taxes. If you don't remember what you paid in these three categories, you can select an income estimate, choosing among five statuses that range from "$25,000 income – single with no children" to "$80,000 income – married with two children." But that's it: No income level higher than $80,000 is provided. Which means there's no way for a curious citizen to get an estimate of the tax burden shouldered by high earners.

White House

Maybe that's all right; the White House only promises visitors insight into the uses of their own tax dollars, not anybody else's. (And it would be impossible for a simple tool to model the nexus of loopholes and deductions that factor into the tax rates of many wealthy citizens.) But it's noteworthy that, at a time when the president himself is calling attention to the need for higher-income earners to pay their "fair share," his administration leaves upper tax brackets out of the income estimate menu.

For what's it worth, the Daily Mail reports that it took "35 minutes to calculate the taxes paid by a hypothetical $240,000 salaried earner who is married and filing taxes jointly with a spouse, using the same conditions as in the White House's example for an $80,000 earner." According to the paper, "that $240,000 salaried employee would contribute toward every federal program more than 10 times what the $80,000 employee chips in, despite earning just three times as much money." To the Mail, which notes that White House spokespeople declined to comment on the record about the exclusion of high income figures, this is evidence that the administration doesn't want the public to know how much the rich pay in taxes.
Second, that appealing-sounding group of priorities given above -- education, veterans benefits, health care -- doesn't include the category that consumes the biggest share of the income tax paid on my own estimated tax receipt: "national defense" (24.64%). And when I click on "national defense" to see a breakdown of that spending, the top item listed is "Military personnel salaries and benefits (5.62%)", although the second, "Ongoing operations, equipment, and supplies (10.26%)," is nearly twice as expensive. (Even the third, "Research, development, weapons and construction," is pricier, at 7.62%.)

Apparently the administration would rather have us thinking of our tax dollars compensating the members of our volunteer armed forces than paying for battles and bombs. (The order of items is similarly perplexing under "Jobs and Family Security," giving priority to the middlingly expensive unemployment insurance.) And while it makes sense to separate the cost of current war fighting from other military expenditures, veterans' benefits (4.53%) is listed as a separate category, rather than a subsection of national defense.

Third, the payroll taxes that fund Social Security and Medicare are treated separately from income taxes. Here again The Daily Mail sees signs of an effort to dupe taxpayers, quoting a spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union as suggesting that the Obama administration wants to to "cut data from the spending side, likely to avoid showing how much SS and Medicare take out of the budget. Workers and business owners who are paying Social Security and Medicare taxes right out of their paychecks are likely not interested in separating them into a special category and pretending they never happened."

Some Medicare spending does show up on my tax receipt, as the second most expensive item listed under health care. But it's true that I contributed significantly more than that in Medicare tax. Still, given the way taxes are collected and divvied up, it's hard to see how else the White House could have presented this information; it's not a budget breakdown. If people want a visualization of how much money the president thinks should be spent on different programs, the New York Times crafted a good interactive infographic on his budget proposal last year.

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clarita995

i know
I'M NOT ALONE
waiting impatiently.
for TSHTF SCENARIO to arrive.

April 22 2013 at 11:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bambamsgolfcart

Our tax dollars are going to the Obama's million dollar vacations, Obama flying around Airforce One still campaigning even though the election is over, their lavish parties at the White House, and their luxurious life style.

April 21 2013 at 5:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bambamsgolfcart's comment
clarita995

you realize he's OUT THERE CAMPAIGNING still ?

April 22 2013 at 11:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Edmond S. Abrain

Surely the Obama administration is responsible for not telling the people the facts and nothing but the facts. Do they distort the facts to support their arguement that the "Rich" are not paying their fair share? Yes they do. I'm not surprised by their actions since they, like many politicians, will do almost anything to get elected and have control and power to shape our country as they think it should be. What is most dissapointing to me is the media's complicity. The people are feed distorttions and the media neglects it's responsibilty to correct the record. The only value a media serves in a free democracy is to be sure the people are accurately informed. With out that balance the people cast their votes without knowing the truth and now we pay the price.

April 17 2013 at 2:37 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
asychis

Will this administration ever stop lying and giving out half truths?

April 17 2013 at 1:41 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
jakesue1

Wow...Some very thoughtful comments on this sight today. I suggest we stop thinking that welfare and other social programs are putting this country in the red and take a long hard look at defense spending and all its long term fiscal commitments. By some estimates the price tag is over 800 Billion for fiscal year 2014, insane.

April 17 2013 at 1:20 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jakesue1's comment
clarita995

and whose estimate is that jakeepoo ?
what percentage of te GNP goes for defense ?
write back.......

April 22 2013 at 11:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
shalebrook

Does anyone really doubt-especially after this article-that the White House is not being deceitful?

To completely ignore the portion of the population that pays 70% of the income taxes each year is reprehensible. But then again, the White House hates success. They can't use the carrot of entitlements to buy votes from successful people.

April 17 2013 at 1:06 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
imd89

There was no reason not to have the system show incomes of a million the 47% that are his followers will never read or understand it even it they did read it. Then there is the fact they don't care one group continues waiting for everything to come from the government & the other just wants to maintain control. Those that work & invest carrier the entire load for the rest.

April 17 2013 at 12:38 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Bill Ridenour

So what else is new? The President and his administration are conducting a class war against the so called wealthy-except themselves and their supporters, of course. Why would they want to tell the world that a supposedly high income earner pays ten times as much in taxes as a lower incoem earner? That would spoil the convenien tfiction they have stet up with the so called wealthy the villains.

April 17 2013 at 12:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
vestagraf

It is most unfortunate that we have such a man running our country, we are heading to become a third world nation, "his ultimate wish as president". Besides this, we must either remove all congressmen that refuse to enact constitutional amenment, "28th Amendment", to do away with ALL congressional exemptions. Synopsis; Better Men, and Women needed to be elected, ones that represent our needs, not their pocket books, and their "me first attitude", and a president that speaks truthfull statements, not rhetoric that he wants people to believe.

April 17 2013 at 12:25 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Ab

The reason people who make a hundred grand or above cant see their burden is because the liar in chief knows even the simpletons that support him would see the truth that over 70% of all taxes collected are already paid by those he has repeatedly claimed "need to pay their fair share" if that liar even began to believe that load of poop why did he only pay 18 %? Its because he is a pathological liar and a life long wealth redistributing socialist .

April 17 2013 at 12:03 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply