I think it is important to take a step back and look at the big picture sometimes. We get bogged down in debates over the debt ceiling, government shutdowns, Obamacare, etc. But for this post, I just want to spell out the big picture of government spending and what it costs the average American. I will use nice round numbers to make it easy to understand.
For budget year 2013, the U.S. federal government is expected to spend approximately $3.8 trillion. Again, I am just dealing in round numbers. Let's put the population of the U.S. at about 320 million people, although this number is probably high by a few million.
Now let's say we drastically cut all federal spending so that the total budget is $600 billion. This is still a significant sum of money, although nothing close to the $3.8 trillion in current spending. That means that there is $3.2 trillion left over in a country of 320 million people. That equals $10,000 for every single person in the U.S.
My guess is that most Americans would be willing to give up all of their favorite government programs if they could receive a check for $10,000 every year. Of course, it would be a redistribution of wealth due to some paying far more and others paying far less. But it is a redistribution that most would probably prefer over the current system where much of the money seems to go to rich bankers or down a drain in waste, or worse.
I know that some seniors would be against it because of Medicare and Social Security. But let's remember that the $10,000 figure is an average for every American. This includes all children. And even if it were divided up with children included, two married seniors would be getting $20,000 per year, and I would expect medical costs to go way down.
This means a family of four would receive $40,000 per year. What would you do with $40,000 per year, even without your favorite government programs?
And let's not forget that this still includes a budget of $600 billion for the federal government. This would more than cover defense and other constitutional functions. You could probably even have enough to make some small additional payments for those seniors who would no longer have Medicare.
It is also important to remember that I haven't even brought up state and local spending. Most spending for government schools and roads come from state and local spending. The federal government only makes up a small portion on this spending. Perhaps part of that $600 billion could still go towards road and bridge building and repair, although there is no reason it can't be left to the states.
This is in no way a proposal on my part. I think it would still be morally wrong to redistribute wealth in such a fashion. It would be better if everyone were able to simply keep what they earn, while donating what they want to donate. But this illustrates a point of just how much we are getting ripped off.
Imagine today's situation with the government spending $3.8 trillion. But instead, $3.2 trillion of that would be direct payments to U.S. residents. Imagine what a family of four could do with $40,000 extra per year. I'm sure they could easily get by without food stamps, disaster relief, foreign aid to dictators, and empire building overseas. I'm sure their $40,000 would carry them a lot further than it does today, as allocated by the government.
Are you getting $10,000 per year worth of government (at the federal level only)? If you are married with 2 children, are you getting $40,000 worth of services per year from your friends in Washington DC?