The Washington Wrestling Federation is currently in the throes of another epic (and pre- determined) showdown that will undoubtedly amount to a piddling reduction in taxes for some, a tax increase for almost as many, and little to no change to the status quo. Some may say ‘something is better than nothing.’ That would normally be true, but sadly I can say with certainty (judging from the range of options currently on the table) that that something won’t be measurably better than what we have, and will only strengthen or preserve the military-industrial-banking stranglehold on this country at the continued and possibly increased expense of ordinary Americans, thanks to the gaggle of kakistocrats we call Congress. (I hate to be negative, but it is simply a question of who the arbiters of ‘tax reform’ in Congress are and who they represent. Answers: power gluttons, and the highest bidder. Sure, a one-time repatriation program – which I would welcome – seems to be a possibility, and could provide a great boost to the domestic economy and government revenues, but it would not fundamentally reform the framework of taxation and spending that is the subject of this post.) (Update: 1/15/2018: while a less than tantalizing 16% repatriation offer (plus state tax) was included, the vaunted reform was mostly minor reshuffling: among the middle class – those people without massive, tax-free cash reserves in Bermuda or the Caymans – some are paying slightly more, some slightly less.)
With all the hot discourse on what can and cannot be cut, and how much cuts ‘will cost over 10 years’ (as if a spending item is some eternal reality and cutting it can cost something, rather than save it, and as if ten years is some meaningful amount of time; it’s merely a transparent trick of late where they multiply by 10 any number they want to appear big, and divide it by 10 when they want it to look small) try to remember this fact: for about $750 per average adult per year, [Southern] New Jerseyans (and for less money than that, Americans at large) currently get local and county roads, police, fire, ambulance, local government administration, courts, and tax collection; water and sewer, electrical grid, trash pickup and public works, parks, and public transportation, among other services. This is based on the local government portion of property tax of 0.6% (paid via rent or directly) and an average dwelling value of $200k, divided by an average of two adults per household, plus county road maintenance costs (with the remaining 2.4 points of the 3% tax going towards bloated school budgets and non-road county expenses). North Jerseyans might pay slightly more due to higher home values, though rates are lower there). Again, that’s the current, actual price you pay for all of those services if you happen to live in New Jersey, one of the highest-tax, highest-home-value states. Given their lower property tax rate, other states are likely providing all these things for considerably less, probably not more than $500 per adult on average. So for around $1k per two-adult family, we get all the on-the-ground, essential, stability-providing services government offers. Alleged chaos without them averted. While libertarians, syndicalists, anarchists, and communists all have their alternatives on how these problems might be solved – the maintenance of roads, provision of security, disposal of sewage, etc. – few people, aside from primitivists and neo-Luddites (who make many valid points), would claim they are unnecessary to solve (or to create in the first place by participating in this mode of human organization). So let’s leave the arguably needed and relatively reasonably priced services of local governments alone for now.
While the state and federal governments are far less visible and relevant to our daily lives than local government, they do have some functions and agencies that are needed for a large state and union of states to work. Instead of combing through the literally thousands of councils, directorates, commissions, ‘working groups,’ and other kinds of agencies no one knows the function or value of, let’s cut everything out and pull only the truly necessary back into the equation. Here’s what I came up with (state costs are for NJ residents) (to see the actual annual cost in millions, just multiply the numbers below by 156):
USPS: $35 (cost per average working taxpayer per year)
Federal Communications Commission: $3
Federal Trade Commission: $2
Consumer Product Safety Commission: <$1
National Weather Service: $7
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: $32
US Geological Survey: $7
NASA, research satellites and sub-Van Allen activities: $15 [total NASA budget $120; see below for comment]
State parks: $1
State environmental agency including forest service, fish & wildlife: $42
National Park Service (also administers 88 of 129 Nat’l Monuments; others by BLM and USFS): $18
US Forest Service, Fish & Wildlife Service: $49 (devolve BLM [$6], and land it oversees to states)
Amtrak, national passenger rail: $8
Federal Railroad Administration: $9
Federal Aviation Administration (includes air traffic control): $102
State DOT (handle interstate highway maintenance): $26
National Transportation Safety Board: <$1
Maritime Administration, Merchant Marine Academy: $2
[FDA: $25 (disband for fast-tracking GMOs and recommending 11 servings of grains per day; devolve to states)]
National Archives & Records Administration: $3
Library of Congress and US Copyright Office: $3
Smithsonian Institution: $7
National Institute for Standards and Technology, related research labs: $5
National laboratories and observatories: $76
US Patent & Trademark Office: $0, funded by user fees
US Mint, Bureau of Engraving and Printing: $13
Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau: <$1
Army and Air National Guard: $40
Coast Guard: $58
State police: $68
Dept. of Energy nuclear power plant & weapons management, Nuclear Regulatory Commission: $78
USCIS (Immigration): $20
Customs and Border Protection: $86
Federal Air Marshals: $6
State judiciary system: $164
Federal judiciary including Supreme Court: $44
Federal Election Commission: <$1
[US Census Bureau: $7 annually, about $35 on national census years, once per decade]
Department of the Treasury, non-IRS and -minting functions: $2
Department of Justice (AG office, inspector general, criminal, civil, and antitrust divisions, US Attorneys): $16
White House, all executive departments (OMB, National Trade & Economic Councils, others): $9
Secret Service protective operations: $8
Congress (including salaries of members, staff, security) and Capitol complex, Capitol Police: $18
Foreign embassies and consulates, US Foreign Service (diplomatic personnel): $10
Bureau of Diplomatic Security (protection for diplomats and consular staff): $1
State division of taxation: $4
Total: $1,219/yr per average working person ($190 billion) [$774 on a per adult basis, with 245 million adults]
[Total military aggression and national security theater budget: $6,410/yr, plus related portion of the $3,586/yr in interest ($2,935 federal, $651 state). See below regarding the additional $1,025 for Veterans Affairs. This is what mass, societal psychosis looks like, when 9x more is spent on imperial wars and fraudulent interest – 3x more on interest alone (which would rise to nearly $12,000 per worker per year – 10x more than essential government and infrastructure costs – if rates revert to the 50-year mean of about 6.5%) – than is spent on essential government and infrastructure, with many continuing to revere this parasitic military and financial imperialism for ‘keeping us safe’ and ‘defending our freedoms.’]
(As for government support of the arts and sciences – non-Smithsonian museums, research grants, etc. – something I don’t think is necessarily beneficial since money comes with strings i.e. a social and political agenda – the cost is minimal either way: National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health cost about $30 each, Public Broadcasting $1.50; any remaining are in the low single-digit range. For comments on Veterans Affairs, state and federal prisons ($262), and USDA ($967; mostly GMO corn and soy subsidies), see below.)
These numbers assume that the 156 million working Americans will shoulder 100% of the cost of government. In reality, even people who do not file taxes do pay them in great amounts (tenants pay every cent of property tax through their landlords, everyone who buys things or travels on roads pays sales tax, gasoline tax, excise taxes and corporate income taxes built into product prices, cell phone taxes, utility taxes, etc.), but this is hard to determine and has been left out of the calculus. So too have taxes paid by people who are not employed or self-employed – retirees, passive investors, etc. – which surely represents a large amount of money. Were these factors considered and somehow figured without much work, it would probably cut the above cost to working taxpayers by 30-40% or more. The numbers also assume that all these agencies are run with optimum efficiency and there’s no Republican bogeyman of ‘waste, fraud, and abuse’ in any of them. That’s all peanuts in the bigger picture anyway, so let’s move on.
I find it irksome when people put their focus on relatively tiny spending items – a 5- or 6-figure study, etc., minor or even significant agency inefficiency – when all these scandals combined – for all time – don’t add up to the $150 billion increase in annual military spending that just got approved without a peep, to say nothing of the $1 trillion in annual military-‘intelligence’-‘security’ costs, or the trillions in direct ‘liquidity’ (aka cash money) and bailouts handed to the banking system in recent years. Government employees who actually provide needed services and poor people left out of a broken system are frequently made scapegoats in Fox News-style propaganda pieces that are echoed by members of the public. Before (or at least at the same time as) you go after the easy (and largely undeserving) targets of mailmen, scientists, parks departments, or welfare recipients, go after the big fish; otherwise, though I try to keep it clean, STFU.
So to recap:
Total of all necessary state and federal agencies: $1,219/yr per working adult, or $190 billion
Total cost of local government (again, including roads, police, fire, sewer, electric, trash, public transportation, parks, bridges, etc.): up to $750 per working adult, or $117 billion (assuming NJ-like spending everywhere)
Combined cost of actual government at all levels: $1,969 per working citizen, or $307 billion
(Current government costs are $45,961 per worker ($56,456 if counting the 127 million full-time workers), when US citizens earn a median gross wage of $44,148 ($49,560 mean); yes, the government spends 93% of what all working American citizens collectively earn; no, that’s not an error.)
Thus, ‘the government’ only has 4% of its expenditures going towards what most people associate with actual government. Remember that figure (which could be completely covered by taxes other than income, sales, and property, e.g. excise taxes, duties, license fees) next time someone regurgitates a platitude about taxes. ‘You want roads don’t you?’ ‘Would you rather we be like Somalia?’ We need $307 billion – maybe a few hundred billion more for schools, welfare, and the military – and spend $7.2 trillion, it’s that simple.
Some agencies not mentioned, like the wasteful USDA ($967 per year, mostly subsidies for carcinogenic GMO soy and corn which increase medical costs) can be devolved to the states. Then there are the prisons, which are severely overpopulated with non-violent offenders. The current state prison system cost is $217 per working citizen, federal is $45. If we assume that the incarceration rate can be halved to the pre-Reagan rate (which shouldn’t be hard, since crime is down or flat since then, after a run-up in the mid 80s through the 90s), that’s $131 per worker or a tax increase of 0.29 points. Veterans Affairs costs taxpayers $1,025 per year ($160 billion/yr, plus massive social costs). I support funding care for veterans as long as the carnage stops now. After a certain period of time of getting a paycheck for participating in aggressive conflicts, the obligation to provide care would have to cease. It’s been 42 years since we’ve been in a major war that the majority of the population didn’t think was deeply misguided or utter BS (and even for Vietnam many did, and were proven right since entry into the war was based on an admitted lie, and since Vietnam is today ruled by the Communist party), and that window is coming to a close. Step 1: stop maiming veterans in unnecessary, foreign, aggressive wars that do not endanger US citizens in US territory (or the vast majority of other places). Step 2: subsidize veteran care in regular hospitals, and close the VA. We don’t need what started as battlefield-style hospitals when there are no (military) battles for this nation happening; it is an unnecessary agency. The DoD can administer things like pensions and the GI bill. As for NASA, we should cancel all outer space-related funding until they acknowledge the moon landings were faked (where we allegedly went six times and never again for 50 years, spent tens of billions and then ‘lost’ the rocket plans and ‘accidentally taped over’ the original footage, lost track of all the ‘real’ moon rocks, used a transparency over the capsule window to make it appear we weren’t in Low Earth Orbit, used the same backdrop in two photos taken from same perspective but that had two different foregrounds; showed multiple, non-parallel shadows in video, proving two similar-strength light sources from opposite directions; then there’s the impenetrability of the Van Allen belt, the behavior of astronauts strongly indicative of lying (hiding, literally running away, lashing out, becoming violent when questioned), the Kubrick clues (Danny from Shining wearing Apollo 11 sweater, insisting last film’s release be held until 30th anniversary of Apollo 11, etc. etc.), among many indications. We didn’t go to the Moon, and should defund NASA’s outer-space programs until they admit they have acted and perhaps to some extent continue to act more as an entertainment and PR branch of the government than an actual space-exploration agency. They are also integral to the ongoing perpetuation of the UFO hoax, part of a long-term plan for a fake ET encounter intended to usher in global government).
Let’s look at schools. If schools spend more on non-teacher administrators, other staff, and overhead than they do on each teacher, ‘they’re doing it wrong.’ School support and administrative staff – not teaching staff – are seriously bloated (when private schools run on a tiny fraction of the non-teacher overhead as public), and pensions are too high (in NJ at least). Let’s assume an average of 25 students per teacher, and 45 million school-age children at any given time who go to public school. That’s 1.8 million teachers needed at $50,000 year on average (more or less in some states), or $90 billion. Double it to $180 billion for support staff, administrators, and facilities maintenance costs, and that’s $2,500 tuition per student per year, which comes out to $721 per working person ($459 per adult), or $112 billion.
On to ‘national defense.’ Close to zero percent of the military budget goes towards actively defending this country. The large majority goes towards endangering it by meddling in foreign lands. No country has attacked the US on its own volition since the War of 1812, and even that’s debatable. Everything else was either open aggression, a door left open or intentional provocation, or a self-inflicted wound. I firmly maintain that the US faces no significant threats anywhere on the globe, at least threats to ‘interests’ to which the government and its corporate owners have any rights. China doesn’t have the means to attack the US, spends its $280 billion on military mainly because the US threatens it, and with 1.7 billion citizens will always have more than enough on its plate at home. Russia’s economy is about the size of Florida’s (1/15th the size of the US) and it spends $70 billion on its military (compared to our $700 billion plus another $300 billion/yr on ‘intelligence’ and security theater). The American population has over 400 million firearms (mostly rifles) among 70 million gun owners, and a potential militia of over 100 million [non-senior, adult men], which would be 50x larger than the Chinese military, over 100x larger than the next largest militaries, and 4x larger than all national militaries combined. The national guard costs $40/yr. Let’s triple or quintuple its budget, perhaps make enrollment mandatory (for domestic defense only, no foreign aggression), and disband the standing military altogether. But to appease the armchair generals, for the purposes of this post we could exceed the budget of ‘the Russians’ by $10 billion (just to keep it in line with major military powers, not because Russia is any kind of enemy) and spend $10 billion on actual intelligence (more than Russia, and likely China), not self-endangerment, and keep up our nuclear program (already covered above), which would cost $90 billion total ($80 billion + $20 billion + $10 billion), or $705 per worker. In all honesty and seriousness, I think we could get by just fine with zero, and just have an armed citizenry and beefed-up national guard (and keep the thousands of nuclear weapons online until the world disarms).
How about the poor, disabled, and the elderly with no savings or family? Free housing could be provided for very little money by the towns simply taking over and not auctioning sheriff-sale buildings and turning them into multiple efficiency apartments, seizing some portion of foreclosed properties from the criminal banks who have no legitimate right to those properties since the underlying debt notes on them were fraudulent (and then breaking up said banks, and opening public banks whose interest funds the government; the best solution would be to simply nationalize the banking system as a public utility, including its entire foreclosure inventory, then sell off some portion of it to the private sector in limited-size units), and/or buying or building low-cost housing, and then maintaining it. If 5% of residents needed well-maintained, totally free housing at any given time, it would cost the towns 1% of home value per year for maintenance (in a town of 1,000 two-adult households, $2000/yr per house x 50 welfare households = $100k/yr ÷ 950 non-welfare households = $105 per non-working household per year to provide free housing @5% welfare rate. At a 20% rate, this would still only cost working households $500 per year ($400k ÷ 800). Regarding food: at a cost of $50 per week per person for actual food assistance [not stamps, but with a variety of dietary options] at a 13.5% food stamp rate, the current rate, it would cost the 100 million working households $1742 per year to feed roughly 25 million non-working or needy households, or $174 billion. In reality it would be less, since the assistance is usually only partial. Social Security can be made optional, and all retirement savings can remain tax-deductible. [Social Security should also become means-eligible, and taxable or unavailable for anyone who does not need it. Many older Americans voted for and/or benefited from a multi-decade wave of debt-fueled asset growth. The argument that they are also entitled to Social Security (without also being responsible for repaying the massive debt that allowed for big stock and real estate gains) on moral grounds is bunk.] If anyone forgets to save, they get free, if very basic housing and food, so the elderly would be covered going forward. For the able-bodied, until they get off assistance, have them spend 10 or 20 hours a week on unpaid work on private farms (and cancel farm subsidies), infrastructure maintenance, or domestic manufacturing, and the other 10 or 20 (depending on the value of their benefits) training to learn a trade or marketable skill, which would cost exceedingly little.
To recap again and include the preceding items:
Cost of government: $307 billion
Cost of public schools: $180 billion
Cost of social safety net (housing and food assistance for needy): $174 billion
Cost of reasonable military budget (including intelligence, minus nuclear which is covered above): $90 billion
Total arguably necessary spending: $751 billion ($4,814 per working citizen, compared to $48k now)
[The amount is $3,061/yr on a per adult basis, accounting for the many wealthy retirees who pay taxes]
Income tax rate needed to fund everything: 9.69% (based on mean annual wage of $49,630)
[3.97 local-state-federal government + 2.32 schools + 2.24 welfare + 1.16 military]
Income tax needed to fund only the actual all-level government (assuming private and community-managed schools and social services, minimal military): 3.97%
No sales tax, property tax, excise taxes, customs duties, gasoline tax, or business taxes would be needed. The economy booms, unemployment goes to zero, the people prosper.
(Hold on though, actually none of that happens, at least not until we change the money and banking system. Due to the fraud-based debt-money system, the reduction or elimination of existing debt and continued debt-financed spending would result in massive deflation, and all government property (collateral for solely USD-payable government debt), all dollar-mortgaged and dollar-taxable real property, and all dollar-denominated or -valued taxable income, or in absence of such property, other property seized in kind; eventually, all assets – would collapse into the hands of foreclosing banks and holding companies who own the debt that is all fiat money, since there would not be enough money in the musical-chairs system to service that debt. This is a brutal, mathematical reality: Dave Ramsey-prescribed frugality and industriousness would do nothing to avert or ameliorate this outcome of total foreclosure, and would only quicken it and increase its severity. Any public or private debt that is paid off or avoided must be replaced with public or private debt elsewhere in order to grease the system forward, or this black-hole scenario (and no analogy is more apt) will begin to occur. It’s the reason why debt has increased exponentially over the years; this is a systemic issue, not just the failure of politicians. To talk of spending cuts without understanding and addressing the nature of all extant fiat money as debt principal (but not interest, which never exists after accounting for principal and whenever paid is only someone else’s principal being repurposed as interest in Ponzi-like fashion) is pointless. Unfortunately, few people have any such understanding: ‘the process by which banks create money is so simple that the mind is repelled.’ See the films Debunking Money and Renaissance 2.0 for further clarification. I harp on these films so much because they’re well done and because almost no one else has put out a calm, coherent, lie-free treatment of this extremely sensitive subject.)
Not that I follow everything in it, but it’s worth noting that the Bible says to take up arms if taxes go much over 10%. This is because more is never really necessary to govern a society, and is bound to amount to abuse. A bona fide community where the people know each other and have chosen to associate might agree to greater degree of distribution or forego individual property altogether (forms of both socialism and free markets aka capitalism have worked on small-enough scales, depending on the lifeways and preferences of the group), but that does not translate well in (allegedly) representative, large-scale government.
So again, for about $4.800 per working person, we would get all the aforementioned local, state, and federal services at their current costs, plus free food and housing for any non-working households (at 20% of population), a sufficient military, and K-12 public schools (free public college, or post-secondary job training where over-enrollment exists, would cost about $384 per working person, though I’d only support it as a transitionary measure until a greater portion of college-aged people can just become employed). Eliminate most of the standing army like most countries do (because they know there are no real, external threats, not because ‘we are keeping them safe’) and you’re down to $3,900. (The only significant threats these countries face – which a military won’t help with – are Western-intel-led political hits (and/or West-manufactured domestic insurgency) if they don’t play ball with our corporate agenda. Their military expenditures and activities are so small-scale they are little more than exercises in cronyism and nationalism.)
Of course, an income tax isn’t the only or necessarily best way. States already collect over $450 billion in sales tax and $50 billion in gasoline tax, and the federal government collects $100 billion in excise taxes, $40 billion in customs duties, and an additional $160 billion in ‘other’ miscellaneous taxes and fees. Add them together and you’re already basically there (short just $90 billion): no income tax or property tax necessary.
Yet, as stated previously, governments currently collect or borrow ten times this: the shocking amount of $46,000 per average working adult per year, including part-time workers ($7.2 trillion [4.1 federal + 1.9 state + 1.9 local, minus 0.7 inter-governmental] divided by 156 million). And to keep it all going, they periodically make a show of closing the national parks over $18 (see Washington Monument Syndrome).
I’m well aware some of the problems above are oversimplified (e.g. not accounting for the delay in acquiring low-cost housing, and not accounting for things like mentally ill, mentally challenged children in schools; personally I have deep reservations whether government can ever restrain itself and work for the citizenry, and the post itself is more a thought exercise than any kind of prescription, though if the current political and economic contexts must continue, I think it would be far superior to what we have), but the point of this was to show that the cost of everything we need for society and the economy to look and function just as it does now stands at about $300 billion/year, or $937 per citizen. Every time you see the citizenry get saddled up with more huge debts, from an $800 billion bank bailout from the federal government (or the unaudited Federal Reserve, with $5+ trillion in direct bailouts, and over $30 trillion in guarantees on bank-owned debt) or another few trillion in unaccounted, unaudited Pentagon spending (now standing at $8.5 trillion), compare it to that $300 billion.
Compare it also to the $458 billion we spend annually on interest (on fraudulent debt that no one earned the money behind, i.e. it does not consist of anyone else’s savings and was created by private banks out of thin air) – which will go up several fold if interest rates return to historical norms – and the $1 trillion/yr that is thrown down the military-industrial-security theater black hole, an amount that was just raised by $150 billion, more than the cost of all necessary parts of the state and federal governments, and it was done without a peep and with almost unanimous support. It’s a perverse state of affairs, and an honest look at the numbers will clearly show you the political players are all bought off – the ongoing, superficial theatrics around ‘tax reform’ aside.