Many of us rushed to file our taxes before this year’s April 18 deadline. While we all hope for a refund to help pay the rent or cover a vacation, we also want our taxes themselves to pay for worthwhile things.
Every year, my project at the Institute for Policy Studies creates a tax receipt to help people see what their taxes paid for. Here’s what we learned this year.
On the one hand, our federal income taxes fund a lot of good, popular things. The expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act has saved lives. Food stamps (also known as SNAP) feed millions of hungry children and families. And Medicare will be there for all of us as we age.
On the other hand, there’s a lot that we might want to do differently.
Yet Pentagon leaders never had to seriously account for what went wrong. Instead, Congress gave the Pentagon and its contractors more money when the war ended — the opposite of what most of us would expect.
While throwing good money after bad at the Pentagon, we’re not investing enough in domestic programs that actually work.
So, let’s hope you got that refund and use it for something worthwhile. But let’s also demand that our government prioritize programs that are worthwhile and make our lives better — and jettison the ones that don’t.
This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.
Federal budgeting expert Lindsay Koshgarian directs the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. You can follow her on Twitter @lindsaykosh.