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You Mailed Them In, Now Where Is Your Tax Money Going?

Take a deep breath, because tax season is officially over. But it is also a good time to reflect on how your money was spent by our federal government, and why it doesn’t seem to change much from year to year.

If the taxpayers in Utah gave the federal government one dollar, a quarter of that dollar would go to national defense and healthcare respectively. Then another dime and a nickel would go to paying the interest on the national debt.

This of course doesn’t leave much to fund everything else, only about thirty cents. Programs involving education, the environment, energy, and scientific research, all receive pennies out of that one dollar.  

I asked USU associate professor of political science Michael Lyons about the discrepancy, and he broke it down like this.

"Some of the reason for that is that education for example and other programs do get a lot of funding at the state level. And education I think is the largest category for expenditure in the typical state budget now. Having said that programs like energy and the environment and science are receiving very little attention from the national government," Lyons said.

Why don’t they receive more attention though? Lyon’s said it’s because there isn’t a constituency to support those programs, and the people who actually turn up to vote have different priorities.

"Elderly people turn out in elections and every politician knows it and so the biggest chunks of the budget go to them, and that's in some respects a democratic outcome. And the defense budget also is something that the older population supports much more strongly than the younger population. It's fascinating to look at the differences between the preferences of younger people and older people. Younger people want much more spending on education and they want much more spending related to the creation of jobs and the economy, and they're not so interested in national defense or social security or Medicaid but their voter turnout rate is much much lower than older people," Lyons said.

Lyons went on to say that another issue that keeps congress from being able to re-evaluate how we spend our money is congress itself.

"You've got a very polarizedCongress where Democrats and Republicans find it almost impossible to work together on anything, and we have stale mate after stale mate. We aren't really in any systematic way establishing new budgetary priorities. We're just lurching from crisis to crisis," Lyons said.

For more information about where your tax dollars go, you can go visit the National Priorities Project, and if after all those long lines and holding for an IRS didn’t go your way, well, there is always next year. 

Here is the link for National Priorities Project