Obvious Idea

Posted: October 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

While starved for inspiration and simultaneously bored out of my mind on Saturday afternoon, I came across this fantastic idea on GOOD.is: Taxpayer Receipts.

Think about it, when you buy a burger, or a pair of shoes, or a plane ticket, you get a bill of sale, itemized documentation of what you paid for.

However, what’s our single largest expense annually? Tax
Do we get any sort of itemized statement telling us what we paid for? Nope

Curious, right?

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Third Way, a self-described “leading moderate think tank of the progressive movement,” recently put out a plan for reducing the deficit, which included this embarrassingly obvious idea. Maybe taxpayers should get a breakdown, receipt-style, that explains where their money went each year.

Here’s what one might look like:


This single, embarrassingly simple item could clear up loads of voter/public misconceptions and radically increase the average American’s understanding (and hopefully appreciation) of the things we pay taxes to fund. Questions like:

“Did we really just pass Health Care Reform in a country who’s elected officials placed highway maintenance above health research?”
“NASA gets that much more than the EPA? I like space exploration but maybe we should maintain the planet we have since we can’t seem to find a new one to move to anytime soon.”
“Why does so much of my money go to Social Security if I keep being told the system will be broke in a few years? What’s the plan then, and will I get to keep that money? Why the hell didn’t Senior Citizens save when they were my age?”

Of course, this may be precisely why we don’t get information. Imagine if politicians had to run on truth and math that made sense, not repeatable scare-tactics and talking points? Makes you shudder, right?