Congratulations - your tax payment is probably your biggest purchase of the year. The federal tax burden now amounts to more than $20,000 per household, according to Internal Revenue Service data. Your contribution to the Treasury coffers will permit Uncle Sam to bankroll public services such as:
- The subsidy for Amtrak to pay for empty seats on two-day train trips between Minot, N.D., and Wolf Point, Mont.
- Less than a day's pay for the chief of Fannie Mae, whose defaults have cost taxpayers scores of billions of dollars in recent years.
- Seven AmeriCorps puppet shows for preschool children on the benefits of recycling and compost piles.
- Six repair-shop visits for a new General Motors clunker whose warranty is underwritten by Uncle Sam.
- Foreign ads for American cattle-semen exports, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Market Access Program.
- Wages for three teenagers in a summer jobs program to distribute leaflets bragging about the local mayor's achievements.
- A consultant's study on how a state education bureaucracy can covertly lower the passing score for standardized tests to create the illusion of complying with the No Child Left Behind Act.
- The cost of broadcasting nine Lawrence Welk specials during public-television fundraising drives.
- A Federal Emergency Management Agency flood "insurance" payout to enable a city slicker to rebuild his vacation home in a river flood plain for the third time
- Federal matching funds for a Republican or Democratic presidential campaign to pay for 8,000 bumper stickers or 25,000 buttons.
- Bribes to two Afghan tribal leaders to sway them to publicly endorse an anti-corruption drive.
- A federal grant to hire an extra policeman to write 900 speeding tickets in Boise, Idaho.
- A National Endowment for Democracy grant to a Third World political party to enable its members to hire Washington consultants to teach them how better to con voters.
- Running a Transportation Security Administration whole-body-imaging X-ray machine for three shifts, not counting the price of risque color photocopies of hot female travelers.
- A sliver of a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant used by a New Jersey city to evict a car dealer and give the resulting vacant lot to a shopping-center developer for a fire-sale price.
- Chauffeur service for dozens of congressmen and top administration officials to attend the National Prayer Breakfast.
- Paperwork costs to implement Public Law 111-27, renaming a U.S. Postal Service facility in Sparta, Ga., as the Yvonne Ingram-Ephraim Post Office Building.
- Five percent of the National Endowment for the Humanities grant for an exhibition "exploring the importance of plants as a source of inspiration for poet Emily Dickinson."
- A Drug Enforcement Administration raid on a Los Angeles medical marijuana clinic, including the cost of handcuffing and booking 10 cancer patients.
- Staff time for U.S. Treasury Department lawyers to issue half a dozen threats against elderly bicyclist groups that violate the U.S. travel embargo against Cuba.
- Two hundred "free" tickets for congressional staff to attend a Kennedy Center opera performance underwritten by the National Endowment for the Arts.
- Federally subsidized advertisements by the D.C. subway system promising fewer horrendous crashes in the coming year.
Citizens can sleep well knowing that, however they would have chosen to spend their own money, politicians have found better uses for their paychecks.
James Bovard is the author of "Attention Deficit Democracy" (Palgrave, 2006) and policy adviser to the Future of Freedom Foundation.
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