Tax Dollas

I tend to the blue side of politics - the majority of my political beliefs were crafted by Aaron Sorkin and Jed Bartlett. The rest are a combination of attending a surprisingly liberal engineering school and growing up surrounded by Republicans.

Unfortunately, I have jumped from one Republican hotspot to another. Aside from a brief reprieve on the West Coast after college, I've lived in Republican strongholds. Even today, I live in the suburbs; if I lived two blocks further into the city, I would be in a blue county. Instead, I keep up my streak of ineffectual voting, my candidates losing by at least 20 points.

Which would be fine, if my cube wasn't next to a vocal Republican. He's the reasonable kind - fiscal, not social. He thinks Donald Trump is as ridiculous as most of us.

However, any political discussion we have, and there are usually a lot - we can't help ourselves, even those that start out on common ground (wow, that Santorum really is crazy!), always ends up on the same place: Republican Randy is pissed off his tax dollars are going to bums who sit on their couch and watch Netflix all day and spend his hard-earned money on booze and Oreos. I usually make half-hearted references to something I read on Slate - it's really mostly on Defense spending and infrustructure - before changing the subject, let's agree to disagree.

But screw that. I am a voting, educated, bleeding heart liberal. If I'm going to talk about feeding the poor and taking care of our citizens, I need to know what the hell I'm talking about.

So, what do our tax dollars go to? Can I rely on my half-remembered Slate article? Is Planned Parenthood really just a drop in the bucket?

According to the Center on Budget and Policy, about a fourth goes to social security, a fourth to health programs, a fifth to defense, and a tenth to safety net programs. The rest don't correspond well to fractions. 

This article and graphic look  pretty legit, but so do some of the crazy stuff my Republican Facebook friends repost, until you realize it's a post explaining how Sandy Hook was orchestrated by President Obama. So let's find a second source! Let's try heritage.org, which rearranged the data a bit but basically had the same information.

I couldn't find a good explanation of the Indiana state spending, but based on the federal data, I have to admit that Republican Randy is right: a big chunk of our taxes are going towards benefit programs. But it's not quite the lazy bums watching Netflix and eating Oreos - almost half of our federal taxes are going towards medical related entitlements and social security. Sure, social security could be improved and will need to be to remain viable, but it's also allowed my grandmother to retire shortly before her seventieth birthday and financially survive the death of her husband. As someone who will be paying off student loans into her forties, I can't even begrudge Paul Ryan's usage of his father's social security benefits. Republican Randy won't complain about that as social security is his only hope of retiring eventually rather than perishing at his desk, the result of a heart attack following a particularly stressful meeting. And as someone who has seen friends bankrupt themselves, rack up credit card debt, and burn through their 401ks just to pay for life-saving medical care following a terrible diagnosis, I fall firmly in the 'healthcare is a basic human right' camp. Republican Randy might disagree. Does disagree in fact. Every time his insurance rate goes up because of Obamacare, I get an earful. But hey - Republican Randy is a big fan of defense spending and I'm not. So I guess we're even? Medical care for the down-trodden for me, guns and tanks for him.

Finally, there's income security. Those Netflix and Oreos bums Republican Randy refers to. Yes, there are people who abuse unemployment and disability. But there are people who don't, who really need it, and until Republican Randy or his compatriots find a way to minimize the abuse, there it is, at 20% of our federal taxes. As a registered Democrat, I have to say, I would rather help to ensure that everyone in this country has housing and food. You know, the indisputable basic human needs. And, according to a study from The Atlantic, Welfare Queens aren't as prevalent as Republicans would like the American voter to think. There hasn't been a Netflix and Oreos study, but there is the case of Florida. Questionable legal and constitutional practices aside, drug testing of welfare recipients actually cost more than it saved the state. Less than 3 percent of the recipients actually tested positive.

So there it is - what our taxes are going to! I feel like a more educated voter. I have to change my tactic for arguing with Republican Randy, but our usual argument was getting stale anyway.

And I think we can all agree 1% is way too little for education.