Do you really know what your taxes are paying for?

Click to see interactive version:

The chart above shows what your taxes went towards in 1987. The chart below shows what they went towards in 2010:

Google Charts What Your Taxes Pay For
FastCode Design, February 2011

Category: Data Analysis, Digital Media, Taxes and Policy

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

27 Responses to “Google Charts: What Your Taxes Pay For”

  1. dougc says:

    Do you notice that when we discuse the % of federal taxes paid by the rich, they ignore SS payroll revenues and when they discuss where federal taxes are spent all of a sudden they include SS outalys?

  2. rtalcott says:

    Is Net Interest interest on the debt?

  3. poakland says:

    Social security and Medicare are not paid for with income tax, rather they are a payroll tax, with employees and employer paying an equal share and self-employed paying both shares. They are regressive in that, someone who pays no income tax, but works will still pay them and someone with a very large income will max out their social security contributions at a little over $100,000.

    It is hard to believe much from these charts, when they make such a basic mistake.

  4. NoKidding says:

    Keep same color bubbles for easier compare?

  5. “…It is hard to believe much from these charts, when they make such a basic mistake…”


    also, How is the ‘Federal Deficit’ accounted for?

    and, lest We ‘forget’..

    There is no Federal Budget for FY2012. The U. S. Senate rejected budget proposals from President Obama and from the House of Representatives. See more about this by clicking on the above bar chart.

  6. machinehead says:

    Essentially these charts look at expenses in the income statement. Plain old pie charts would be more legible than the little bubbles.

    Superficially, the charts give the impression that nothing much has changed in a quarter century. But it’s the federal BALANCE SHEET where the ugly deterioration lurks.

  7. rktbrkr says:

    What is health outside of Medicare (and nearly equal to Medicare) is that all Medicaid?

    What is income security? Is that federal unemployment, it can’t be that much – whoops I forgot it’s income security for bankers, bailouts etc.

  8. bear_in_mind says:

    @poakland: Good catch — clearly a flaw in their paradigm!

    Given your caveat, I think there may still be some interesting points these graphics capture:

    1) Assuming the Social Security numbers are accurate for the respective income, citizens were paying a far larger share of their wages into SSA in 1987 than they are today. I suspect the majority of this resulted from President Obama’s “payroll tax holiday”, which seemed akin to stealing from our seed corn.

    2) In the intervening 23 years, the annual federal income tax for a single person earning $50,000 has decreased 19 percent… and that leaves out inflation and the relative dollar strength.

    3) Net interest was a MUCH larger share of federal spending, yet we know deficits and debt were FAR smaller in 1987 than they are today. No doubt this is a function of the Zero Interest Rate Policy (ZIRP) by the Federal Reserve. But Americans should consider the implications of an inevitable rise in interest rates on servicing our ballooning debt. If the Fed moved from ZIRP to 3-4 percent interest, can you imagine how large that “Net Interest” balloon would become?

  9. bmz says:

    Those charts so misrepresent the facts. From 1945 to 1980 income taxes averaged near 12% of GDP. Reagan reduced marginal tax rates so much that they fell close to 9%. Clinton increase them back to 12%; and Bush/Obama reduced them again to 9 %(and below). However, on budget expenses have remained 12%(+/-1%)) of normalized GDP throughout(except for the Reagan/Bush1 years, when they were higher) . The deficit in income taxes has been financed by borrowing, largely from the Social Security trust fund. But, not only can we no longer continue to borrow from the trust funds, we have to start paying money back as beneficiaries start relying on the trust funds. In the short term, we have to raise income taxes to 12%, simply to cover on budget expenses. In the long term, income taxes must rise above 12% in order to pay back the trust funds.

  10. messy12 says:

    Health cost listed as $1, 300?? For who? I’m self-employed and pay nearly $600.00 a month for an individual plan with a $2,000 annual deductible.

  11. DrungoHazewood says:

    I just filed my taxes and I am one of the 40% or so that don’t pay any Fed income tax. Paid a bunch of FICA though. Had cap gains, divis, interest ect, but that imploding business put me over (under?) the top. So they can spend it on whatever they want. I think I am part of the FSA now.

  12. gordo365 says:

    At what point do fortune 50 start promoting a single payer plan for health care?

  13. wunsacon says:

    “National defense” is too politically correct. Let’s call it “global empire expansion and maintenance” or just “war”.

  14. wunsacon says:

  15. TimmyB says:

    “…It is hard to believe much from these charts, when they make such a basic mistake…”


  16. victor says:

    I learned more from the comments than from the charts. One exception though:

    @wunsacon: been reading too much Chomsky/Castro/Chavez, etc? Trashing our men/women in uniform is despicable.

  17. Joe Friday says:


    Social security and Medicare are not paid for with income tax … It is hard to believe much from these charts, when they make such a basic mistake.

    Mistake my ass.

    This is what is commonly done to misrepresent the federal budget.

  18. EdDunkle says:

    I wish the name for the “Defense Department” would revert back to the original “War Department.”

  19. DrSandman says:

    Can we finally end the “let’s cut defense spending” sturm and drang now? It’s welfare that’s killing us, not defense, which employs millions of people in good-paying jobs that can’t be exported. Will you hippies ever be satisfied with a number there other than zero?


    BR: Yes, those highly leveraged damn welfare recipients, with their risky derivatives and their securitized subprime under-writings.

    Did you play sports in college without a helmet? You are a walking advertisement against blunt head trauma.

  20. gman says:

    Shorter fed budget..wars and old people and interest on previous old people and wars.

  21. poakland says:

    Joe Friday,

    Unfortunately, I wouldn’t argue with that.

  22. wunsacon says:

    victor, the soldiers do what they’re told. It’s you who’s despicable for defending bloody awful policies and (purposely?) conflating criticism of the game versus criticism of the players.

  23. Joe Friday says:


    Shorter fed budget..wars and old people and interest on previous old people and wars.

    Actually, Social Security is self-financed and Medicare is majority self-financed, leaving the largest parts of the federal budget the Military Industrial Complex, interest on the Reagan/Poppy Bush/Chimpy Bush federal debt, and Corporate Welfare.

  24. Futuredome says:

    Capital Owners need to tell their minions at the DoD the party is over.

  25. rktbrkr says:

    The devils in the details Dept…

    General observations:

    “Income security” has exploded to 600B because of extended payments but generally state and federal unemployment benefits are supposed to be self funded by premiums paid while working, correct? I suggest we follow the Republicans lead and end extended U benefits if we want to see and feel a true depression.

    Health expenses are mostly Medicaid and these expenses have grown greatly since the great recession started.Medicaid is a mish mash of state administration and rules some with direct admin by states and some with sub contracted admin.It provides medical care (and nursing homes) for some poor.

    Education is not a federal responsibility but it has a growing 300B budget including 120B in Pell grants for college. I suggest it’s time to start reducing and finally eliminating this “mission creep” area.

  26. rktbrkr says:

    It would be beneficial so see net inflows/outflows for all programs that are supposed to be self funding, Soc Sec, Medicare, unemployment etc.

    It would be interesting to see all federal pay and benefits consolidated (pay, pension, medical benefits) with two subdivisions uniform and non-uniform. I bet that would be a heart stopper. I assume none of these post employment expenses have been trust funded like private pensions, soc sec etc.

    There seem to be a few groups of institutions that are gorging themselves on federal largess: 1) hospitals (and doctors), nursing homes and colleges and all these expenses keep growing at rates that exceed overall inflation. Time to wean them off Uncle Sam’s teat. Students are portrayed as the beneficiaries of Pell grants but they are really just conduits of federal money to the institutions, colleges put out insane sticker prices and then the games playing starts, similar with the medical institutions too.

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