Editorial: Where do your federal tax dollars go?

Lisa Yates @Lisa_editor

One of my Facebook friends wrote this on her wall:

"It's the time of year after I file my taxes I am pissed off and want to go on a rant about how it's ridiculous how much I pay vs. how much I get back and how disgusting it is. You are very welcome to those my tax dollars support. Hope you appreciate it cause I don't."

After her rant were 11 comments from others, most of which I could not print. The general consensus being that too many people are living off the government.

Where do those hard-earned bucks you've forked over to Uncle Sam actually go? The answer might surprise you.

Most of the budget goes to national defense, Social Security and major health programs, according to information from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Here's how it breaks down:

• Medicare, Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) account for 21 percent of the budget;

• Social Security benefits accounts for 20 percent;

• National Defense and International Security is another 20 percent;

• Safety net programs make up 13 percent;

• Interest on debt is 6 percent; and,

• The remaining 10 percent goes towards program areas such as benefits for federal retirees and veterans; transportation and infrastructure; education; science and medical research; non-security international interests; and, others.

Of the so-called entitlement benefits, 90 percent go to the elderly, disabled or working households. In fact, 53 percent are age 65 and older; 20 percent are disabled, non-elderly; 18 percent are in a working household, non-elderly, non-disabled; and, 9 percent account for everyone else.

Not everyone receiving help fits the ugly stereotype of the lazy welfare cheat.

The fact is, many of us will grow old and will be forced to retire. Others will become disabled before reaching retirement due to accident or illness.

With the one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression, many people I know lost money in their retirement accounts and had to keep working. Some lost their jobs – good people. The downturn in the economy lead to massive downsizing in companies everywhere, even here in Louisiana.

Home values fell and credit got tight – even after "we the people" bailed out the nation's biggest financial institutions with our tax dollars.

Instead of acknowledging and addressing our needs, legislators nationwide are slashing funds and removing our safety nets.

Political pundits are out there spinning phrases like "entitlement society" and calling our president the "food stamp president" – all in an effort to get us to turn on one another. But sooner or later we'll all end up in the same boat.

The fact is, our middle class is fragile, built and supported by working people who've benefitted from many of these "entitlement" programs. If we cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP and remove all safety nets for the poor, we'll be just another third world country with only the very rich and the very poor.

That's not the America I know.

Lisa Yates is the editor of Gonzales Weekly Citizen. Follow her on Twitter @Lisa_editor.