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White House: Here’s where your tax dollars actually go

The federal government pays millions, billions, and trillions to do this, that and the other. Here’s your share of the bill.

WASHINGTON — One week after President Obama said the federal budget can’t be balanced on cutting “waste and abuse,” the White House released a calculator that breaks down your tax dollars and lists specifically where they go.

It’s called the Federal Tax Receipt.

For example, a family of four making $80,000 pays an estimated $3,863 in federal income tax. Of that, a little over a quarter goes to national defense, and another almost 25 percent goes health care costs, mostly Medicaid and programs like it. Foreign aid, that ever-popular target, totals just $42.49 of that family’s tax bill. Agricultural subsidies, farm aid, crop insurance, etc. comes to $30.90.

The White House’s calculator is a good start, but it’s hardly comprehensive and it’s a little confusing, because some of the bullet headers are written in Washington Speak. “Job and Family Security,” for example, includes everything from unemployment insurance and food stamps to retirement packages for federal workers.

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However, as with most things the federal government adopts in the name of transparency, this is an idea already being done by outside groups like Third Way, which has pushed for a tax receipt for years (they’d like a customized one mailed to you each year, so you can see what your taxes went to that year).

Here’s Third Way’s tax receipt calculator, which is pretty comprehensive, and includes a total for how much money the government borrowed in your name to finance spending above tax receipts. Another good one is here, by Kareem Shaya.