The Power of Taxpayers

Watching the news during this latest government shutdown is painful. Beyond the typical blame game, I hear newscasters and politicians saying over and over again, “Everyone wants…” or “Nobody wants…”. Do they really know what we all want? Or are they just relying on their supporters? If it’s all about supporters, then it becomes a game of spinning the tale to get more and more support.

It is driving me crazy.

With the way things are, we are constantly at risk of a government shutdown every time there’s a major disagreement. A shutdown hurts people, wastes money, and rarely gets anyone what they want.  

All of this has me thinking (that, and an interesting conversation with my husband who loves politics and comes up with genius ideas)…. What if We the People could play a part in directly determining the budget for our government?

There are non-discretionary items on the budget that Congress doesn’t get to determine, true, like social security and medicare. And there would likely need to be a variety of rules and caps placed to make sure our government can run smoothly, rather than at the whim of the general population. And yes, those who pay more taxes would potentially have more power to increase or decrease certain budgets. Still, I think there’s a lot of potential here. We could do a lot to clarify and get things done if the American people were given more freedom to decide just how the government should spend some, though not all, of their tax dollars.

(Technically government already allows us to allocate $2 of the taxes we pay to a political party of our choice. If that is working, why not try expanding it a little more?)

Imagine… The people who want to build a wall (or reinforce existing walls or simply increase border security) would be able to take a certain amount of their taxes and put it into the budget of the right agency in charge of wall building and border security.

Or, for those who are not big fans of a border wall, and would NOT like to contribute any money to such a thing, wouldn’t have to. They too would be given the choice to have their tax dollars go to things that are important to them.

Money is a powerful tool. Ask any lobbyist. And if lobbyists and corporations and other special interest groups get to use money to sway government, why not the average citizen?

Even though we’re far from getting anywhere near something like this, there is still a lot that can be communicated through surveys and polls. Even though, at this moment, we can’t help fix the problems with the budget, we could still communicate our personal priorities by expressing how we wish we could allocate our tax dollars. Sometimes that simple communication can do a lot to let our representatives know the truth about what people want — not what newscasters, politicians, or certain groups are saying we want.

Willing to give it a try? Here’s a survey to express where you’d like your tax dollars to go.

For those unsure of this idea, consider giving meaningful feedback. Even if this all seems rather complicated and far-fetched, I bet you could think of a way to make it work.

Already we’ve had some great thoughts come in! Rather than put the entire discretionary budget in the hands of taxpayers, we could allow for government agencies or politicians to create their own “project” (like the wall or refugee aid) that could seek contributions from taxpayers directly. Tax payers would be allowed to specify a certain amount of money (or maybe a small percentage of total taxes paid) to allocate to these projects. That way the general populous doesn’t need to become government budget experts, but could feel more involved in some of these government initiatives. Good idea!


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