Tax Reform: $500 Hammers and How Congress Should Look at This

This is a really interesting little case study on government waste. I know the $500 hammer is old, but looking at this makes me want to scream. I wish the people in government would look at things in this way:

How many taxpayer dollars am I wasting today?

So in an attempt to find what the average American pays in taxes every year… well Google failed me. Anyway, here is the closest thing I could find:

Source (home page, I can’t find the original page again… but check this out)

OK since I couldn’t find anything else, I’ll take $13,789 to be the average American’s average annual tax burden for the purpose of illustrating my plan.

So, to illustrate how my proposed system would work I went digging for pork examples and found this site that talks about government waste. They have a porker of the month award (hilarious IMO). So in this example some Congressman from North Carolina grabbed a $750,000 earmark for signs at bus stops in Chapel Hill. (I picked this one because well, I went to Duke and our archrival is UNC in Chapel Hill.)

So a quick calculation of $750,000 / $13,789 gives us 54.39. That’s the number of taxpayers whose taxes got wasted on this project. Now how depressing is it that 54 people’s entire taxes for the year went for signs at stop bus stops in Chapel Hill, NC. That stuff should be collected locally (the press release about this has more info).

So the Citizens’ Against Government Waste should take their 2006 Pig Book (hilarious name) and next to all the waste they should put a little person icon and a number showing how many people’s taxes were wasted. At least then people might think a little. Instead of oh, it is just another million dollars here or a million dollars there, they should think about the people whose money they are spending.

This is crazy. Admittedly I’m pretty small government oriented, but how can anyone look at this and think it is reasonable?

Here is what I have to say:

Dear Congressman,

I work hard for the money I make and I pay my taxes. I’m happy to pay them because I think the U.S. is a great country and taxes are an important part of enabling any government. However, the amount of waste in the system is extraordinary. Next time that you insert an earmark or add some pork – or vote for them – please think of me and every other American. The individual taxpayers. And say, would they want me to spend their money this way? Is this really helping the country? Could this money be better spent?




I’m not endorsing or saying I support the views of any of these sites, I just found them as I was writing this post and they had the info I wanted. It’s interesting to see where you end up as you start meandering while doing research. Originally this was going to be a short post with just that $500 hammer case study. But then I got sucked in.

So, what do you think ?