Choosing where your taxes go

Your idea is a disaster.

First off, defence and the safety net account for the lion’s share of the budget, so any changes in allocation of the remainder wouldn’t make that much of a difference. If I was in charge of determining the budget, I’d absolutely make massive slashes to defence spendng, and probably make some minor trimmings to health care spending, so I’m not especially impressed by the option to choose where the rest of my taxes go.

Secondly, most people aren’t particularly good judges of how resources should best be allocated: some of them are simply ignorant of the details of running the government, and a lot of us are blinded by economic self interest.

Thirdly, I don’t think you’d get agreement on ‘what areas of the budget are too important to be voted on’. Person A might argue that funding for crisis pregnancy centers is sacrosanct. Person B might argue the same about wildlife conservation efforts. Person C might argue that about alternative energy funding. Person D might say it about relief aid to Africa. Personally, I think all four of those are better uses of US government funding than funnelling money to ‘democracy’ activists in the Ukraine, Venezuela, and Thailand, but that’s just me. In any case, you aren’t going to get agreement on what those top prioirities are, so the whole thing is dead in the water.

Only about half the population pays Federal income taxes. So you’d be shutting the other (poorer) half out of the decision-making process.

It would be too unwieldy to do it for each person, but perhaps groups of people could each pick someone to represent them in such budget allocation discussions. To combat the “uniformed” voter, we could pay each of those representatives to spend some time learning about the issues, then have them vote on the budgets for each part of the government on our behalf.

Surely that system would be much better than whatever it is they do now…

Don’t forget we’ll need to add an allocation line for the enormous additional bookkeeping and internal audit department costs needed to track and verify that everybody’s chosen allocation is done correctly.

My most optimistic prediction of the results of this are that the most important thing government does will be massively overfunded, and everything else will be massively underfunded.

Even without all the misallocation that would be done by people’s misconceptions of what’s important… this would present an almost impossible problem of coordination even if almost everyone agreed on what the funding levels should be.

You have to allocate your money not only according to where you think the money should go, but according to where you think other people will allocate their money.

:slight_smile: Brings back memories of driving to Grandma’s house in Reading … “well, there was road work on 22…” Every friggin’ year…
But seriously, imagining that “my” money is going to social programs while that of those who support that military goes there makes me feel better about the whole thing.

Presumably spending levels can only be set subject to any funds earmarked for debt reduction - so voting your tax dollars to debt reduction means less spending. I don’t know how we’d figure out how much we actually need to tax people under such a system, though.

This. We’d have been reconstituting the USAF more or less from scratch in the year after 9/11 (which, on reflection, might not have been altogether a bad thing.)