From asses to elephants: Political ‘parties’ on America’s dime

From asses to elephants

Photo courtesy of Marc Anderson.

It’s only days away – the dreaded, nationally-procrastinated deadline: April 15th.

Is that the sound of a funeral procession or is it just my checkbook making its way to the cemetery in a W-2 draped hearse?

Before you pull out the Johnny Cash blacks and cuddle up with a Sarah McLachlan album and a box of tissues, remember the reason for taxes; Think of all the positive social outcomes that result from the government pooling our hard-earned tax dollars to use for “the greater good” of our country.

But is that really what our biweekly 20%’s are funding? What actually qualifies as justified spending in the eyes of our government?

The choice of where to allocate funds ultimately lies in the hands of our elected officials. As citizens, we are encouraged to be involved in local politics, so our voices may be heard through the voice of a representative. However, many of the U.S.’s “best decision makers” aren’t always the nation’s finest.

In breaking news last week, the Republican National Committee was exposed for spending large amounts of campaign dollars on expenditures that were not quite the “office supplies” that they had listed the expenses as on the books. Thousands of dollars were spent at a bondage club in California for “party recruitment,” and there have been many other reports of money spent on alcohol, limo rides, and five-star hotels under the leadership of Chairman Michael Steele.

For the RNC, it appears that “Transportation costs” equal private jets and “Travel Expenses” include overseas resorts. I guess the Grand Old Party really does know how to have a grand old time, don’t they?

The Deputy Finance Director, Debbie LeHardy, spent $500 on “meals,” at Henri Bendel’s; a luxury clothing store on Fifth Avenue, NY (must have been a really big apple). The boutique sells purses, beauty products and jewelry for “trendsetting young women from around the world.” Maybe Sarah Palin could have taken a few fashion tips from LeHardy.

Even though there have been many reports regarding this scandal, studies show that most Americans don’t even know about the expenditures (roughly 84% said that they haven’t heard any news regarding the spending). Scary huh?

It is even more alarming how many of us don’t really know where our tax dollars are going and in which ways they are being used. There are many varying estimates of the percentages of our income taxes that are allocated to different purposes.

In 2009, there was roughly $2650 Billion of federal funding. Of this, 30% funds human resources, 11% funds general government expenses, and 5% is used on physical resources. The other 46% is used on defense. Of this 46%, 18% is for “past military” expenses such as veterans’ benefits and interest of the nation’s debt (390 billion annually).  The other 82% is current military expenses, including America’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So what is the common citizen supposed to do with this information? Some groups refuse to pay Federal Taxes, insisting that it is our constitutional right. Although this viewpoint is a little extreme, there are steps that each American can take to ensure that their tax dollars are being used fairly.

  • Be informed. Perhaps the most proactive step that Americans can take to prevent government misuse of funds is to stay informed. Read news reports, and the next time a representative is spending funds inappropriately, make sure you are the first to know.
  • Get involved. Despite the recent accusations directed toward the RNC, overall these types of committees do have the best intentions about educating the public and fighting for implementing their beliefs in the government. Get out there and go to local events. Your opinion deserves to be heard!
  • Vote. Our nation was founded on the foundation of democracy. The purpose of representatives at every level is to express the opinions of the majority. Know each politician’s views on each of the issues, and support individuals that you believe with act with your best interest at heart.

Like every government, America sometimes has issues with scandals and corruption. However, this doesn’t mean that all political bodies act irresponsibly. It is the duty of each American to help build our country’s government, and to define expectations for those in power.

What do you think about the latest RNC findings, and do you agree with the way that the federal government uses our tax money? Comment below!