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Taxes and You: How would you shape the federal budget?

June 3, 2015

By Jeremy Quattlebaum, Student Voices staff writer

As the school year comes to a close, many of you are probably thinking about getting a summer job if you don’t have one already. Summer jobs are a great way to earn extra cash and show colleges or post-high school employers that you are a responsible and dedicated worker.

If this is your first job, your first paycheck may not be as much as you were counting on. A large chunk of it will be missing. Where did the money go? Taxes.

The amount taken out by state, local, and federal governments depends on how much you’re making, whether you are married or single, and if you have children as dependents. The more money you make, a higher percentage of your wages is taken out in taxes. Ten percent is taken out for the lowest wage earners while 35 percent is taken out for the highest brackets.

If you look at your pay stub, you will see who took what: State and local governments take some, and the federal government takes the rest. Most of you will also see the largest amount taken out for Social Security and Medicare.

You’ll see the effects of Social Security and Medicare when you get older, much older, as the money taken out for these services will start to play a large part of your life after retirement. When you reach 62, you may start receiving Social Security checks from the government. Social Security provides retirement income to almost all workers, certain family members and survivors. Also at age 65, you will not have to rely on your employer or your private insurance to pay for health expenses because you will be eligible for Medicare, which is the federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older and certain younger people with disabilities.

So besides Medicare and Social Security, where does the money taken from taxes go? Depending on where you live, the amount taken out by state and local taxes will be different, and where it goes will be different, too. But everyone with a job who pays taxes contributes to the federal government’s budget.

The federal budget gets revenue mainly from income taxes, payroll taxes and corporate taxes. This money is used to pay for the federal government’s expenses, and this is what we know as the federal budget. Income taxes are taken out of your paycheck and make up the largest source of federal revenue at 46 percent of the incoming money. Payroll taxes, taken out for items such as Social Security, are 32 percent of federal revenue, and corporate taxes account for 13 percent. The remaining 9 percent comes from other taxes and duties. All this money is used to create the federal budget, which is how the government spends that money.

Federal spending can be broken into two types of spending: mandatory and discretionary. The mandatory budget is for expenses like the aforementioned Social Security and Medicare, in addition to other costs like Medicaid and retirement for military and federal workers. These programs’ budgets are required by law to be filled. Mandatory spending accounts for 65 percent of the total federal budget; discretionary spending accounts for 29 percent; and the remaining 6 percent goes toward paying off interest on the federal debt.

Discretionary spending has much more leeway, and the amounts for different agencies and federal programs can change budget year to budget year, depending on who is president and who is in Congress. The president normally sends a federal budget proposal to Congress with amounts designated for agencies, and Congress can increase or decrease those amounts. Essentially, the president’s budget is a wish list of funding, and Congress holds the purse strings.

And the discretionary budget is where you come in.

Take a look at the chart on the right.

Since this money is partly yours and 
everyone you know who pays taxes, do you agree with how it’s being spent?

The military receives the largest amount of the discretionary budget, and a third of the total. Meanwhile education spending is 6 percent of the budget, but much of education spending comes from state and local governments.

Transportation and science spending are low on the list, receiving 2 and 3 percent respectively. This money goes toward infrastructure like roads and bridges, and grants to universities and companies developing the next generation of tech and science.

To learn more about budgets, check out the National Priorities Project’s “Trade-Offs: Your Money, Your Choices” interactive to develop your own personalized federal budget.

What do you think?

If you could create a federal budget, how much of the discretionary budget would you allot to the federal agencies? Would you increase or decrease military spending? What about education, transportation and science? Why is the mandatory budget so much greater than the discretionary budget? Join the discussion and let us know that you think!
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Todd parker / SPHS
How would I shape the federal budget . 1st I would start off with the streets of all 50 cities simple fact we have so many unsaid thinks that the government wont talk about . then I would put a budget together to the need now and need latter everything that isn't working or hasn't been working will be the 1st one to get changed the others id work on later

murrieta, california
I am a firm believer in everyone pulling their weight, but i do not like how much money government officials make and how they can't even propose strong strategies to solve issues. Government pulls more taxes than educational funding and in reality the don't do a whole lot. After presidency, a president can make over half a million dollars, and they don't do anything. I don't understand why the president and family spent over $40 dollars in vacations last year. On average Michelle Obama spend $5,000 every morning, including clothes, makeup, hair product, and other things. As a tax payer, I pay for things that really don't help me in anyway, and can't even know what it improves on. Personally I hate picking up the tab for things that I can't even vote upon or have a say in unless I am a high elected official.

beeville ,tx
mrs.thoornton / acjones
we should have less taxes

Sidney, Montana
Quinn McGlothlin
Mr. Faulhaber
If I could create a federal budget, I would keep the federal agencies and keep the military spending as it is. I would keep military as it is because they put their life on the line everyday. I would keep education as it is too. I would because education is important too everyone. Without education you wouldn't be able to have a job. I would keep everything else the same.

California murrieta
mr. jabro goverment
i think it is kinda balanced out right but i don't think they should take how much they do already because some people who barley make anything get money that they might really need taken away from them and then just becuase of our goverment it makes people stressed out because they know a nice chunk of the pay is gonna be taken by the government but then again they do give us free schooling for us minors and for some people they actually help find homes and they do help us out if we hurt our selves or lose a job you can unemployment but i still think in my opinion that they take way to much money from us, and some people live paycheck to paycheck and the money taken by the government could be used to help them be more comfortable with there living style instead of being stressed about if they can pay there bills.

I think that we should have a say where our tax money goes. Its odd how more money goes to support the military and not education, transportation and science. Transportation, science, and education are part of an everyday life for most people. Some schools complain about how we don't have the right materials we need in school in order to get some things done. The government hears that and ignores our needs.

Stroudsburg, PA
Mr. Hanna/SJHS
Due to the fact that so much of our money goes towards paying taxes, I do believe that we, the citizens paying taxes, should be able to choose where SOME of that tax money goes. I do not think that the percentage of money going to the military should be lowered. They are protecting our country and our rights, and the supplies that they need in order to do so should not be limited because of a smaller budget. But I do think that education needs more funds. Schools are what prepare children to be the leaders of tomorrow, and without proper tools, they will be uneducated, unprepared and unaware of the happenings worldwide. I think that transportation is fine, but that the government could give science more money; by doing so, they will be helping to improve the lives of everyone through ways of medicine and things such as enviormental issues.

I feel as though, the military is important, us citizens are much as important or probably more important then the military's spending. Our society is not what we might think, instead, everything is about money. money, a simple paper controls every daily of our lives. While we work extremely hard, we only get a few portions of money from the boss were working under. The federal government should increase budget wages, and force the celebrities to donate money to the government. The celebrities have a very EASY life if you think about it. Why are we spending on military for anyways? what if there was an alien invasion right now? should all the countries form an alliance to fight it off? The answer is no. We are greedy little creatures even the government uses 55% of the fund to the military uses. I feel like we need to spend it on more research, medical treatments, outerspace, new technologies and more.

Stroudsburg, PA
Hanna/Stroudsburg JHS
Personally I believe that the government should allot more money from taxes to education and schools. Many schools like my own are forced to budget cut and make changes to their programs. This affects the students because we don't have as many extracurricular activities and also affects teachers because some of them get laid off or donnMany schools like my own are forced to budget cut and make changes to their programs. This affects the students because we don't have as many extracurricular activities and also affects teachers because some get laid off I don't make as much. Also the children in schools today are the future for our country. What better way to spend our money then to educate them...? I do also believe that money should go to the military they work so hard protecting our country and they do need funding. Also, more money should go to sciences and invention because this area can help our country a lot with issues like diseases and new innovative technology. These are the things that I think our tax dollars should go to .

Mr. Hanna/Stroudsburg JHS
I don't think military should receive 55% of taxes. I know military is very important for USA and it does need lots of money, but don't others need it the same way military does. I mean education needs more than 6% of taxes because education would make future generations learn and do more things including our generation. Science and transportation also should get more taxes because now a days science is making lots and lots of new discoveries and inventions. Transportation ahould also have more taxes than it has because now a days everybody needs a way to get to one place to another. On top of that United States is in dept and if the military didn't get 55% of taxes than we would not be the dept we are right note, so I feel that military shouldn't ge most of the taxes.

Stroudsburg PA
Mr. Hanna Stroudsburg JHS
I get that military is very important and they do a lot for us in the United States but the hey get 55% of taxes. I feel that they are getting to much cause the United States is in a lot of debt if we took money from the military maybe we wouldn't be in as much debt. Schools and colleges also don't have a lot of money cause they are forced to lay of teachers and then they don't have any teachers.

Mr. Hanna/stroudsburg JHS
Jobs are great to hav but they are hard to get into and you have to be able to do the job before you apply to the job. Also I think jobs are fun but sometimes it can be hard if you don't do the job correctly.

Stroudsburg, PA
Mr. Hanna/Stroudsburg JH
So much of our income is taking for taxes, we as citizens should have a say on what our money funds. I think that although the military is very important, it doesn't need 55% of the government's spending. Also, education definitely needs more funding. Schools and colleges are what will prepare all future generations who will lead our country in the future, and they don't have enough money to do so well. Schools all around have budget issues and are forced to lay off teachers, lowering the quality of education. Lastly, science and the environment need more money for research and switching to green energy. Besides these categories, I believe that most of the current federal budgets are beneficial to our country.

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