Odd Citizen

Odd Citizen
An Odd Citizen’s Search For Vanishing Freedoms

What Federal Government Services Do You Actually Appreciate?

December 29th, 2010

Senator Tom Coburn in a recent speech summarized succinctly what has gone terribly wrong with out Federal Government. And much of it has occurred in the last four years. This is worth a moment of your time to read and reflect upon.

It is a time for Americans who have never been involved in the political arena, in our Nation, to get involved because the future of your children and your children’s children depends on it. We have a very short window within which to recapture the economic renaissance in our country, and it is less than 4 years. If you look at what we are coming to in terms of debt-to-GDP ratio and in terms of the size of the government to the size of the GDP, we will be on an irreversible course that will eliminate American exceptionalism forever because the thing that made us free and kept us free was a fairly limited Federal Government. What we have in front of us is an attempt not to get it back down to a size that is manageable and within the intent of our Founders’ vision and the American people’s expectation; we have an intent to grow. The discretionary budget of the Federal Government, on the rate that has been passed by this body the last 2 years alone, not counting the stimulus, will cause the Federal Government to double in size in 5 years. We are 40 percent bigger than we were 2 years ago; actually, it is 38.6 percent bigger. We hear the average Federal employee now makes $72,000 and the average private employee now makes $40,000. We have added 170,000 new jobs in the government in the last 7 months, while we have lost three times that in the private sector. Things are out of whack. The only way they are going to change is if the American public demands it to be changed.

To put it in further perspective, if you are a member of a 4-person family, your family’s share of the $3.5 Trillion Federal Budget in 2010 was about $45,000, of which $20,000 will have to be paid by your children and grandchildren. Does that make sense to you? Is the “government service” worth the cost?

As citizens we need to challenge ourselves with a simple test: list on a piece of paper all of the services of the Federal Government that you benefit from and appreciate. Then total up the tax money you pay out to the Federal Government, the aggravation you experience from the bureaucracy and the enforcement activities of the government. Do you personally get your money’s worth out of your taxes and aggravation?

Here’s a list of Federal agencies for you to appreciate. Don’t just select an agency, say Education and say “Well, I’m all for education, so that must be worthwhile.” You must specify exactly and explicitly what the vast Department of Education is doing for you personally. If you say, well it gives money to our local school, then the questions have to be: what is that money spent for that benefits me, and why does that money have to be routed through the Federal bureaucracy that skims off millions to support lazy bureaucrats.


Illustration from Obama’s 2010 Federal Budget Explained in Plain English

I would wager that your list of “benefits” starts with national parks and federal highways, might include food safety inspections, and if you’re big hearted even national defense. If you look at the Federal Budget (and believe it to be honest) you’ll discover that a minuscule fraction of the total budget goes to the “services” or “benefits” that you can actually identify, know about and appreciate. For example, National Parks ($2.7 Billion) accounts for only 21% of the Interior Department’s $13 Billion budget, and Highway Construction and Maintenance (negative $263 Million) represents 0% of the Department of Transportation’s mammoth $75 Billion budget. So where does the rest of this money go? If it doesn’t benefit you, then why is it being collected and spent?

Please use the comment facility, below, to describe what specific Federal Government services you deem to be worth your money. I dare you!

One Response to “What Federal Government Services Do You Actually Appreciate?”

  1. comment number 1 by: detroit expat

    Re: Highway construction and maintenance

    Did a little looking about and came up with some interesting numbers. I always had this idea that our gas taxes went to support our highways. Foolish me…but I didn’t really believe it anyway.

    From US Energy Information Administration
    Avg retail price – Nov 2010 $2.86
    Fed tax: $0.184/gal
    avg state tax: $0.224/gal

    Annual gasoline consumption, 2009:
    $137.9 Billion gallons

    If I did the numbers right, we collectively pay $0.408/gal which comes to tax revenue of $56.3 Billion dollars per year…yet Highway Maintenance and Construction is -$263 Million?
    (Doesn’t sound right. Is this a reduction from a previous budget rather than total?)

    I’m sure DOT has other sources of revenue ($75 B)and my figures are just for retail gasoline.

    One thing that gets me is that we have various levels of govt SELLING public roads to private interests “because we’re broke”

    Is something screwy going on here?
    (Of course. But why should highways be any different?)

    Makes one wonder when hands start wringing over things like Interstate Highway bridges collapsing and killing people in major metro areas (or anywhere else for that matter)

    By the way, some other gasoline tidbits:

    Figures given for Nov 2010:

    Refiners paid average of $85/barrel of crude (42 gallons). This is about 71% of retail price.

    Refining cost and profit is about 5% of retail

    Distribution & Marketing: 10%

    Taxes: about 14%

    Something (else) to contemplate.
    Detroit Expat

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