With Tax Day (Observed) in the US tomorrow on Tuesday (even the IRS gets confused), I felt like a link to Death and Taxes: A Visual Guide to Where Your Federal Tax Dollars Go would be in order. This beautiful information graphic breaks spending down into all the ‘small’ things that tax money is spent on, from the FCC to the Army Corps of Engineers. A zoomable interface similar to Google Maps makes it possible to explore this huge graph. As Terry Yoo likes to say, the government’s a big place! – and this graph gives you an idea just how much there is.
The numbers in this graph are mind-boggling. Many of the smallest items are in the dozens or hundreds of millons, the bigger ones go into the hundred billions. These numbers are beyond what we can actually imagine. In response to the recent sale of DoubleClick to Google for a mere 3.1 billion dollars, somebody on slashdot made an interesting comparison:
Let’s say they paid in $100 bills. That’s 31,000,000 bills. Say each pack of 10 bills weighs 1 gram. That’s 3,100,000 grams, or 3,100kg. That’s about the weight of a car. In $100 bills. Conservatively.
That’s actually a fairly heavy car, and probably more like two cars if you’re thinking of compacts. Now make that the weight of about 600 sedans for the entire federal budget. That’s a lot of money, a lot of power, and a lot of potential pay-off for the right kind of lobbying.
And lest this posting be misunderstood as libertarian or anti-government, let me quote Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said that taxes are what we pay for a civilized society. As I am preparing my tax returns (on the last day, as usual), I couldn’t agree more.