27 December 2010

iBudget: The Per Person National Budget, Allocated by You

I think it is time that federal budgets be translated into per person amounts so that we all can have some sense of perspective.

The idea of a $14 trillion economy or a $3.5 trillion federal budget is mind numbing. I propose that all talk about budgets and taxes be adjusted to per person totals. Our roughly $14 trillion economy, for instance, translates into about $46,000 per person. The first number makes no sense to me; the second does.

So, even if - like me - you haven't a clue what $663 billion for defense looks like, you can understand what it means to have each person pay $2,200 a year for defense, or about 5 cents of each dollar they make. A National Science Foundation budget to finance all basic research is about $7 billion. Sounds like a lot, but that means each American chips in about $23 a year. In other words, if you go to a nice, but by no means extravagant, restaurant, you'll spend as much on that one meal as you spend to help fund basic research.

It wouldn't be hard for the federal government to have a website that allowed people to enter their income to see how much they were funding in each category. And I think that if we can calculate taxes we owe each year, we should also have the ability to allocate those taxes. I'd be fascinated to see what gaps showed up between current government outlays and what the average person thought we ought to allocate to. If we were really brave, we could let each tax payer allocate - the total budget distribution a weighted average of every taxpayers' allocation.

These steps would make the budget process more personal and maybe even make it feel a little more like it was our government.

No comments: