- The Washington Times - Friday, July 6, 2001

Today, for the first time this year, Americans will finally begin earning money for themselves, rather than the government.

Americans for Tax Reform considers July 6 to be Cost of Government Day. Taxpayers have inadvertently devoted the previous 187 days to paying for the tremendous taxation and regulatory costs imposed by all levels of government.

Taxpayers had to work from January through March just to pay their over $2 trillion in federal taxes. They labored another two months to pay for the costs of local, state, and federal regulations, which ATR calculated at nearly $1.4 trillion. Taxpayers toiled another month to cover state and local taxes, but at least these haven't grown very much (as a percentage of income) since 1977, when ATR began estimating Cost of Government Day.

Much more alarming is the fact that thanks largely to federal taxation, Cost of Government Day has been pushed back every year since 1994. Federal taxation has grown each year since 1992, and now accounts for over one-fifth of the gross domestic product.

Most of that burden has fallen on individual taxpayers. A recent report from The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) maintained that the growth of federal taxation as a share of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) has been built entirely by federal income taxes. ATR cited the CBO's claim that "'historically, individual income taxes have tended to grow only slightly faster than GDP,'" but, "'from 1993 to 1998, those receipts averaged growth of more than 10 percent a year,' far outpacing growth in income, GDP and inflation." In short, ATR says, "The more we've earned, the less we've taken home."

Taxpayers might take more home, if their elected representatives weren't so busy trying to bring it home instead. This year, members of the House of Representatives have requested nearly 19,000 earmarks in this year's budget, at an estimated cost of nearly $300 billion. Unfortunately, that is nothing new: Citizens Against Government Waste found well over 6,000 pork barrel projects in the budget for fiscal year 2001.

Such is the size of government that even President Bush's hard-won tax cut will have little effect on lessening the load, especially if Congress continues its long, ignomious history of breaking its own budget caps.

If Mr. Bush's gossamer ties do manage to continue to hold down the federal colossus, then Cost of Government Day may actually be pushed back. One can only hope that by next Independence Day, taxpayers will actually be done paying for the cost of their government.

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