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In our last proposal, we floated the idea that we ought to end withholding in paychecks and all forms of taxation and transition to a system where people paid their taxes directly, transparently and regularly. Today, I’d like to amend that change with another change that our legislators seem to think makes sense in private markets: truth in advertising.

For example, there are laws that require telecommunications companies to itemize each of the charges to its customers, so that we are aware of how much of the bill comes from generation, transmission and other fees.

I hereby propose that every quarter via e-mail and every year via paper mailing, that every government entity in the United States, including Federal, State, Local and other administrative jurisdictions, present each customer with an itemized bill for what their tax dollars are being used for. In the annual statement, I also propose that included with the funding amounts (e.g. $1.67 of your taxes went to NASA, $3.98 to the Department of Ed, etc.) that the agencies also report employment levels and basic information about average pay and benefits in those sectors as well. Furthermore, in each annual statement, I require that all agencies report a history of expenditures and revenues, including how surpluses and deficits had been financed in the past, for as many years as the agencies track records, including a separate chart for the recent 5 year history. Agencies will also be required to report on the programs that have been targeted to specific groups and that are not generally available to the constituents at large.

It will create good government jobs to do this, no? So I hope this curries support of statists of all stripes. Now the intent of such a plan is obvious, but a little voice inside me is telling me it might backfire for behavioral reasons. For example, when we see an itemized list of federal expenditures, many people would probably be shocked to see how little we spend on foreign aid, so they might be inclined to accept increases there, and rapid ones too. I think the benefits would far outweigh this cost however.

To my readers, can you help me understand what the most common objections to such a plan would be?

2 Responses to “Policy Proposal, A Continuing Series”

  1. Douglas J Bennett says:

    My objection is that it would understate the amount for which the taxpayers are on the hook by understating the actual spending level. I’d amend it to include borrowing:

    “$1.67 of your taxes went to NASA, and an additional $0.67 of your future taxes(1) was borrowed and spent by NASA; $3.98 of your taxes went to the Dept of Ed (2) and an additional $1.59 of your future taxes(1) was borrowed and spent by the Dept of Ed (2); $944.60 of your taxes went to pay interest on the total outstanding borrowings of your future taxes, which was $42,647 at the start of this year and currently amounts to $47,230.”

    (1) This number may represent an increase in your taxes or in taxes on your children, depending on when that debt is repaid. Note that the total future tax burden on your family increases as your number of children or their earning power increases.

    (2) Note that effectively all expenditures by the Dept of Ed have been targeted to children and their parents and are not generally available to constituents at large.

  2. Douglas J Bennett says:

    Also, I’d very much like to see this policy put in place, but I’m sure it never would be. I’m also sure that few good arguments against it would be made.

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