Taxpayer Receipts: Like Nutritional Labels?

To riff off of Tim's post a little, I think it's fine for taxpayers to receive a receipt of sorts, to see where there taxpayers are going. But pace Third Way, I don't think this would have a meaningful impact on the public's understanding of the federal budget; to borrow an analogy Ezra Klein made on Twitter, this would be similar to nutritional information on packaged food; concerned customers will take the time to analyze and see what's what, but the average person ignore the information, and move along.

Moreover, if the idea is also to build support for deficit reduction, I doubt you'll see anything of the sort with a taxpayer receipt. In fact, you might see the opposite; Americans might see that they only spend $192.79 on military personnel, and demand more. They might see that they only spend $3.14 on the Drug Enforcement Agency, and ask why the government isn't doing more to keep drugs off the streets. You get the idea. Far from making Americans more aware of where their money goes, it might make some Americans more vocal about spending more. This might be good for somethings -- Head Start could use more money, I think -- but most likely, that money will go towards things we don't need.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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