A few days after print publication, Knight's syndicated newspaper column, which moves twice a week, will be posted. The most recent will appear at the top.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Where your federal taxes are going

Bill Knight column for Mon., Tues. or Wed., April 18, 19 or 20

Emancipation Day, April 16, was a Saturday this year, so many public workers had the day off on Friday, the usual tax-deadline day: April 15.

The deadline was moved to Monday, April 18.

Few American taxpayers feel financially emancipated, though – especially when we pay taxes. That’s understandable, but that annual annoyance might turn to eager anger when it’s realized where our federal tax dollars actually go.

“Americans might be surprised to learn how their tax dollars are spent,” Lindsay Koshgarian, research director at the National Priorities Project, which just released its yearly report on how the U.S. Congress decided to spend our money.

“For example, 25.4 cents of every federal income tax dollar goes to the Pentagon and military, while just 3.6 cents goes to education,” Koshgarian said. “What we see in poll after poll is that Americans would like to see more investment in domestic-spending programs such as job training, infrastructure improvements, and education programs. Unfortunately, what the data shows us is that our tax dollars don't reflect our priorities.”

Besides plenty to the Pentagon and a pittance to education, here’s a breakdown of other expenditures, according to NPP’s compilation of federal tax data:

Out of each 2015 tax dollar, Health gets 28.7 cents, Interest on the federal debt 13.7 cents, Unemployment & labor 8 cents, Veterans benefits 5.9 cents, Food & agriculture 4.6 cents, Government 2.9 cents, Housing & community 1.9 cents, Energy & environment 1.6 cents, International affairs 1.5 cents, Transportation 1.2 cents, and Science 1.1 cents.

Illinoisans’ share of federal taxes is the ninth highest in the country, NPP shows: The average federal income taxes paid here is $13,978 – $1,000 higher than the U.S. average.

Of course, in one way that’s good news. Since income taxes are based on what we’re paid as a group, Illinoisans together have a substantially higher income than dozens of states.

The top 10 states in sending income taxes to Washington, D.C., are Connecticut ($21,367), the District of Columbia ($18,997), New York (18,094), Massachusetts ($17,338), New Jersey ($17,287), California ($15,496), Wyoming ($15,204), Texas ($14,594), Illinois ($13,978) and North Dakota ($13,757).

However, further detailing what Illinoisans pay, that $13,978 average includes $3,547.32 for the Pentagon (including $97.82 for nuclear weapons), but just $223.30 for energy and the environment (including a scant $45.24 for the Environmental Protection Agency).

So an average Illinois tax payment funds nukes twice as much as the agency responsible for ensuring clean air, water, etc., plus it chips in $36.87 for the federal prison system but just $9.94 for homeless assistance grants, NPP reports.

Governments run on taxpayer dollars – nearly half of all federal revenues come from individual income taxes, NPP says. And that’s a strong argument for why federal spending and the federal budget (which seems as difficult to pass on Capitol Hill as it is in Springfield) ought to reflect Americans’ preferences and priorities.

“Individual taxpayers’ income taxes are the largest source of federal revenues every year – which means individuals are the primary bill-payers of the federal government,” Koshgarian said. “That's why the federal budget belongs to all of us – and why we should know how our tax dollars are being spent.”

Even more to the point, that’s why we should demand representatives make decisions in our interests.

Contact Bill at; his twice-weekly columns are archived at

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