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With the economy in a mess, and a war going on over bailouts left and right, it got me to thinking: What's the best way to determine what the general public thinks our tax money should be spent on?

Every day, we hear arguments from all corners of the world on what taxpayers want to see money spent towards: defense, health care, education, etc etc. But no one has put forth a democratic idea yet to solve the problem.

I propose that each tax form contain one survey question, at the end. It would consist of a small box with various labels, such as Defense, Education, Energy, etc etc. You would prioritize how you would like your taxes to be spent by placing a 1 in the box you felt was most important, 2 in the 2nd most important box, and so on and so forth. Additionally, there would be space for one or two 'write-in' options.

What would be the benefits of such a system? First, everyone in America who pays taxes would be able to have a direct say on their priorities. It could also be used to track public opinion of issues, and a useful gauge to our representatives to see where funding should be directed. Then we could hold these politicians accountable if they go against the grain without explaining their positions.

What are the negatives? Besides the cost of people to collect and collate the data, the downsides are slim. (Apart from H&R Block convincing customers to write them in, of course.)

I think a proposal of this nature would not only make our country more democratic, but be a quick, efficient, and easy way for people to share their voice on where their money should be going. What do you think of the idea?

Originally posted to LnGrrrR on Fri Dec 12, 2008 at 01:55 PM PST.

Poll

Do you think a survey question on your taxes would be useful?

40%8 votes
55%11 votes
5%1 votes
0%0 votes

| 20 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RisingTide, Carolyn in Oregon

    It's a slow economy... please, any tip is wonderful, no matter how small.

    No amnesty for Wall Street.

    by LnGrrrR on Fri Dec 12, 2008 at 01:58:33 PM PST

    •  I do not think that the question is correctly (0+ / 0-)

      posed. I think that most Americans do not understand how much money currently goes toward things, or how much their reordering could change our governmental priorities. Someone putting Military Spending down below Science, might not actually want us to have to decrease our military spending to less than 4% of GDP.

      And if you did expect people to prioritize so that the bureaucrats might allocate based on piecharts, well, everyone wants a strong military, and that might always take up the largest slot.

      Too much risk of demagoguery.

      Allow me to suggest a different idea: Enumerate which areas need legislative attention (be that oversight or new legislation or repeal of current legislation) the most. This provides the legislature with some muscle and some direction. Also, the executive might also take note of what is perceived as ineffectual or not working.

      I think my proposal is more likely to provide something that the government can act on, in good faith.

      Jesus ain't comin', go ahead and put the Nukes back now.

      by RisingTide on Fri Dec 12, 2008 at 02:21:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Replies... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RisingTide

        I don't know. Not everyone wants a strong military, and so I think you could have many hard-left liberals either placing it near the bottom or not voting for it at all. As well, it could either be numbered in order, or you could place percentages on your taxes.

        As far as enumerating which areas need legislative attention, I think it's a different side of the same coin. Can we agree that money tends to grease the wheels of politics? If so, then what people choose to put their tax money towards should get the lion's share.

        Additionally, by listing generic categories, you would have a much less chance of claims of partisanship. If certain legislative areas were placed on the survey, they would most likely have to be relatively specific. Then there would be debates about which categories to place on the ballot.

        Thanks for the ideas though; I'm certainly no economist. I just think there has to be a better way to determine what the taxpayer thinks his taxes should be actually be spent on.

        No amnesty for Wall Street.

        by LnGrrrR on Fri Dec 12, 2008 at 02:32:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  here's my thing, though. (0+ / 0-)

          I don't know how much percentage there is now, and how much is actually critical (versus pork), for any given category.
          I'd prioritize science, but Darpa and the CIA fund science too...
          And I'd really hate to be responsible for an underprioritized category (i.e. who really thinks about paying our debt? not "I don't think we should pay our debt") to be shirked on.

          Money totally greases the wheels of politics.

          I agree with generic categories.

          If we were to give this mostly as a "here is what your taxpayers think" to the president and the legislature, I think that would be a good idea -- but I highly doubt people would get anywhere close to a good system with your original proposal.

          But let's put both of our ideas to the test! why not post a poll or two here and on the next right? Then we can see how much variance there is between people, and how much complaining because the whole thing doesn't makes sense! Experimental verifaction, eh?

          Jesus ain't comin', go ahead and put the Nukes back now.

          by RisingTide on Fri Dec 12, 2008 at 03:14:07 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm all for that! (0+ / 0-)

            If there's one thing that the government doesn't do enough of, it's reward successful programs. And I'm all for tweaking of my idea to make it so. Feel free to post a poll on one or the other, and I will reciprocate.

            No amnesty for Wall Street.

            by LnGrrrR on Sat Dec 13, 2008 at 01:28:46 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

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