Your View: Americans remain in dark about how Congress spends tax dollars

Among the deepest expressions of national values and policies are the federal budgets voted yearly by Congress. This week Congress resolved political conflicts to propose a discretionary budget authorizing some $1.4 billion in overall spending. Unfortunately, the July 25 article, Trump Encourages Republicans To Back Bipartisan Budget Bill, like others published in the Boston Globe, the New York Times and elsewhere, did not communicate what taxpayers need to know.

For example, differences over raising the “budget caps” referred to caps on total military spending versus total civilian spending. Nor did the articles explain that the budget deal authorized more than $700 billion for war, war preparation, and dangerous new weapons like the more easily used “low yield” nuclear bombs.

We believe that if American taxpayers knew that Congress routinely allocates more than half of the budget to the Pentagon, a massive institution notorious for poor oversight and cost overruns, their level of support for current U.S. foreign policy would change.

In fact, no agency of the U.S. Government communicates back to taxpayers how their tax dollars are spent. Many municipalities send a yearly report to their residents about how property taxes were distributed, and some states report how their Legislature allotted state budgets. Yet citizens who pay their federal income taxes do not learn how their taxes were spent.

We believe that the absence of this information for more than a century is no accident, but a policy promoted by those who understand that the public won’t support half their tax dollars directed to the costs and machinery of foreign wars and “national defense.”

In the state legislative cycle Senator Jo Comerford and Representatives Mike Connolly and Jack Lewis, with multiple cosponsors, have filed a bill which we support, the Taxpayers Information and Budget Communication Act. If enacted this legislation would shine a bright light on this murky accounting.

The Treasurer would communicate to Massachusetts taxpayers how the U.S. Congress spent their dollars in the prior year, and how the state legislature is allocating its budget, some 30% of which comes from the federal budget. This would be a small but valuable step in helping Massachusetts taxpayers to understand how their taxes are being spent.

Maryellen Kurkulos and Jonathan King

Members of the Board of Massachusetts Peace Action

This article first appeared in the New Bedford Standard-Times