Column Date 2006-04-09

Surprise! You owe the U.S. government $30,000

Dear American Taxpayer:

Here’s a quick update on your account with the U.S. Government.

Not including income tax, you now owe us $30,000. And so does your wife. And so do each of your children. In fact, our records show you have two dependent children, which means that your family owes a total of $120,000.

How did this happen?

Simple. Your government has been spending more money than it actually has. And to make up the difference, we have borrowed money from our good friends, China and Japan.

And who gave us permission to put you into debt and borrow all this money on your behalf? Why, your “fiscally conservative” senators and congressmen – in fact, last week they even raised the American debt limit to $8,960,000,000,000 (that’s like handing themselves a credit card with a nine trillion dollar limit).

Congress, as you know, has never met a debt limit it couldn’t exceed, so it’s clear that you’ll soon owe even more money than your current share, shown on line three (3), above.

But not to worry. We’re not asking you to ante up your $30,000 yet.

In fact, the only time you’ll have to re-pay this debt is if the Chinese and Japanese decide they want their money. And we don’t think that will happen anytime soon, because if the USA goes broke, there’s nobody else around who can buy all the things they make.

Where does all your money go?

Well, a lot of it goes to pay for something called “earmarks” -- the congressional code word for “pork.” Senator John McCain estimates that pork barrel projects amounted to $47 billion last year.

Won’t you please take a minute and tell us exactly what kind of pork you’d like to spend your $30,000 on? Here are a few choices (some are new pork, some are ongoing pork):

You can spend $25,000 so the Clark County School District in Nevada can develop "curriculum to study mariachi music."

Or help build a $229 million “Bridge to Nowhere.” Almost as long as the Golden Gate and taller than the Brooklyn Bridge, it will connect Ketchikan, Alaska with Gravina Island (population 50).

The Defense Department wants $2 million to put airbags in airplanes, as well as $4 million for stainless steel bathrooms.

You might consider helping Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska who requested $4.3 million for a program that the Defense Department doesn’t want: a souped-up Ford F-350 truck for combat use.

Or join Senator Kit Bond of Missouri who put an extra $110 million in the budget to buy two F-15 jets that the Pentagon never asked for.

On the other hand, nothing’s to stop you from coming up with your own clever ideas: not long ago, Alaska Airlines received a federal grant of $500,000 to paint a Boeing 737 to look like a flying Chinook salmon.

So please drop us a line and let us know how you’d like to spend your money.

Have a nice day.


The Government of the United States

©2006 Peter Tannen