Your 1040 Tax Form Lies to You

Pick up a copy of a 1040EZ US income tax form with all the instructions, particularly pages 36-37. Here are those two pages in a PDF. You’ll discover that the U.S. government only spends 22% of its money on “National defense, veterans, and foreign affairs.” The form admits that you could leave out the “foreign affairs” part and still be at 21%.

However, take a look now at the pie chart created by the War Resisters League, which shows 54% of the budget going to the military.

21% and 54% aren’t even close to each other. This is not “good enough for government work.” This is our money. What gives?

Well, the income tax form plays a number of dirty tricks on you. The first is that it lumps Social Security and Medicare into the budget even though they are not funded with income taxes. Take that out and the 1040EZ now tells us that the military makes up 32% of national public spending. But that’s still a long way from 54%.

However, the tax form lumps all interest payments on debt together without explaining that much of that debt is for past military expenses.

The tax form appears also to categorize at least some of the military spending that goes through departments other than “Defense” as something other than military spending.

And in all likelihood the tax form is based on a budget established early in the year and does not include any estimate of the additional funding that will be appropriated outside the budget in “war supplemental” bills — something the White House and Congress have refused to commit to not doing yet again in 2011.

The 1040EZ is misleading also in claiming to fund “defense” and “veterans” with no mention of the military or the fact that most of its weaponry has no defensive purpose, and with only the fine print to explain that only 3% is actually spent on veterans.

Both the 1040EZ and the War Resisters League use numbers for FY2009. One of them uses those numbers in a way that better explains where the government is choosing to spend our money. The 2010, 2011, and now 2012 FY budgets have moved steadily in the direction of even more of our money being spent on the military.

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