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If you could choose where your tax dollars went, what would you cut?

What if you could choose how your tax dollars were spent? Would you feel better about Tax Day? Would you be willing to pay more? These were the questions posed in a post-tax return essay by Ethan Porter published last year in Democracy.

When I return a movie to Netflix, the company e-mails me to let me know when it has received the film. And when I purchase almost anything–any good or service–I am provided with a receipt, which shows not only proof of purchase but also documents what, precisely, I have bought. Yet I didn’t know that the Treasury had received my money until the check cleared my bank account. And I was never provided with a receipt documenting what I had received in exchange for it. It’s often said that our government is stuck in the twentieth century; in this area, at least, that complaint would be charitable.

This year Porter can have his receipt, via a White House web app called Your Federal Taxpayer Receipt. You plug in your 2010 payment and a receipt is generated. Spoiler alert: you’re spending a lot of money on our nation’s wars.


I’ve taken the top 10 spending categories (as provided by the White House) and listed them as part of a highly unscientific reader survey below.

Take a minute and rank the spending priorities to reflect how you would want your tax dollars spent. Then see the real time results here or wait to see them once you've submitted your rankings.

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Comments (5)

This is a very poorly designed survey. For one, I believe defense should be our #1 priority, but at 1/2 the current spending level.

If you really want something useful, people should be able to allocate their $s, not just rank their priority.

Some questions about the construction of the poll:
- Is 10 high priority and 1 low priority or is it the other way around?
- Does "--" mean zero or no preference?
- Should each item get a different value from 1 through 10, as suggested by saying they should be ranked?
- Why is it possible to vote multiple times?

This is kinda confusing. I assume "10" is the lowest priority, but military spending gets ranked as the highest percent of all the income payments, despite having the lowest priority thus far.

We've had great participation on this today, but I'd like to address the issues that may be keeping more people from ranking their spending priorities.

1. The percentages that follow each spending category have no relation to what readers are choosing--this is the current distribution info as provided by the White House.

2. The idea is to rank your priorities 1 through 10, with 1 being your top priority and each getting a different value.

3. The "--" is to prevent a default of "1" and is an imperfect quirk of this experiment with Google Docs.

Mike, Andrew, and Paul: Thank you for the feedback. This blog is at times a laboratory for news tools and feedback like this is essential.

And a fine experiment it is Mr. Guntzel!