By Nathan Barton
At HowMuch.com there is a neat chart which shows what Americans have spent on various things for the last 70 years. It is, no surprise, very enlightening – for several reasons.
First off, the data comes from a FedGov source: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Department of Labor) tracks this stuff. NOT the Department of Commerce, NOT the Department of the Treasury. And it has been doing it for a long, long tine. More power to the government.
Second, notice what is NOT one of the twelve categories which the FedGov tracks. There are several, but three very much come immediately to mind:
a. They do not track taxes (which we know that Americans spend an incredible amount of money on). This includes both income taxes and “social contributions” to Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid. It does, I assume, include taxes that are levied directly on other items which people spend money on: sales and excise taxes on tobacco, alcohol, and food.
b. They do not track charitable giving, again something which Americans “spend” money on. Not just to charities, but to churches and schools and other beneficiaries. Yes, some of that goes to con artists (unlike taxes, which ALL pass through the hands of a good many con artists). But it is still an important part of the economy of the Fifty States.
c. They do not track spending on recreational drugs, although we know that several government agencies DO try and track that carefully. That spending is substantial, though nothing in comparison to taxes and charity.
No doubt, there are more categories; perhaps readers will notice some. (I assume that the “Education” category does NOT include the taxes paid to government to support schools and universities, but I do not know if it is reasonable to assume that transportation and housing costs include taxes on those (fuel excise taxes, registration/licensing taxes, and property taxes).
Third, this is “adjusted for inflation” but we still see MASSIVE increases in spending for housing and transportation over 70 years: two areas in which government regulations and taxes have INDIRECTLY driven costs up to an insane degree. By INDIRECT, I refer to such things as increased costs for fuel and the vehicles themselves because of regulations and taxes on wages and capital expenditures as well as raw materials, for transportation. For housing, increased costs due to government regulations and taxes would include property taxes paid by landlords, the impacts of zoning and planning, the increasing costs of utilities caused by regulations AND government using them as cash-cows), and increased cost of raw materials for building housing.
Of course, if you don’t understand the ins and outs of taxation and regulation, you’d think that none of this spending was really effected by government. Which is the case for most people today, who are taught little or nothing about government and economics in high school OR college (unless you are, of course, a business major or an economics major, in which case you are taught a LOT, but most of it is wrong.
It is obvious WHY government (the BLS) does not track those three items, of course. The government does not want its subjects to know how much taxation has gone up, year after year. And the government does NOT want us to know how charitable giving (the free-market alternative to so many government programs, as well as supporting things that government doesn’t like) varies from year to year. I suspect that charitable giving has dropped significantly in seventy years, even while taxes have skyrocketed. The money spent on recreational drugs would no doubt point out how that spending has gone up fairly consistently: again, at least much of that due to the government driving up the costs of doing business for those marketing and distributing the drugs.
This chart only tells us a little bit about the economy, but nonetheless, it is very revealing, for as much as what it does NOT tell us as what it does.
But what is really important to realize is that government, to some degree, tracks virtually every dime we spend, and seeks to track it more carefully and completely. That is, of course, one reason that there is a “war on cash,” because plastic and electronic transactions are far, far easier to track individually than when we pay cash.
The other reason is that the more we (people and business) depend on government to track these sorts of things, the more that government can lie about it. This has been the case with the various statistics (including the so-called “inflation rate” and the even more bogus “unemployment index” in the past couple of decades. Government can hide almost anything – and virtually everything