For many things, I’m a happy taxpayer.
I am grateful for roads, libraries, schools, police and fire protection, fresh clean water regulated by the EPA and prisons. I am willing to pay my fair share for these sorts of things in civilized society. (Yeah, I’m liberal like that.)
According to an opinion piece printed in the Star Tribune earlier this week, the federal government will spend $33,880 per household this year, up nearly $8,000 from last year. That’s just the feds, by the way, and doesn’t include state taxes, local taxes, property taxes, sales taxes and road tolls.
For that $33,880, each household is supporting Social Security (I probably won’t enjoy benefits from this program, but my parents are, so OK), financial bailouts (not sure about this one and really wishing I could have participated in the Cash for Clunkers program), defense (still very unhappy about spending money on Middle Eastern wars, but whatever) and federal debt.
The total also includes $452 a year on “justice administration.” Well, if I like police and prisons, I guess I have to like the bridge between them right? That $452 includes new homeland security costs that have added $100 per household to justice spending.
Oh, so that highly political “terror alert” scale that former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge is alleging was manipulated by the Bush administration before the 2004 election has actually added to my federal tax obligations? (Ridge is making news today with his new book, “The Test of our Times.”)
And I’m paying for all those rude Transportation Security Administration officers who slow me down in the security line at the airport?
Maybe all those hurdles that Homeland Security has thrown up in the past eight years have made America safer. Maybe terrorists have been deterred by the inconvience of TSA lines as much as I have. Maybe that ridiculous terror alert level that has been yellow for “elevated” for something like five years has really kept all our law enforcement officers on their toes.
Or maybe we are throwing a ton of money on a program that helps scared little housewives and infrequent air travelers sleep better at night.
I don’t think I am one bit safer from a terrorist attack today than I was eight years ago. A motivated terrorist will find a way, and he won’t have to remove his shoes and belt while in line at the airport to do it.
About five months after 9/11, I took my first international flight to Great Britain. In the throes of the TSA’s enthusiasm for catching terrorists, my computer was confiscated at a tiny one-gate airport in Central Minnesota because it tested positive for a “bomb-making substance.” They took my computer (which, it turns out, was smeared with glycerin from my highly combustible hand lotion), shut down the airport and invited in the bomb squad to inspect this tool of mass destruction.
But before they shut down the airport, they let me board the plane and fly off to my destination. Me. The user of the computer. The presumed bomb maker.
Maybe that was a good use of federal taxpayer money. Making us safer and all.
Or maybe that’s $100 a year every household in America could save and spend on sleeping pills. To sleep better at night.