How the White House Website Is Tricking You

by Gerri Willis

Time for the State of the Union again - the long-winded to-do list offered by the President in January to a joint session of Congress. And that got me thinking about last year's State of the Union.

What did the President promise - what did he actually succeed at making happen? It's time for a report card -- the President's report card.

First things first: One of Obama's big themes last year was national unity - his speech came in the wake of the assassination attempt on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona.

Obama pleaded for Americans to come together in the wake of the tragedy. But, in the end, the rhetoric just got worse.

Giffords, by the way, just announced she will resign her congressional seat to continue her recovery.

Other initiatives that the President promised to pursue that have failed to see the light of day: replacing no child left behind with a better education law, making a tuition tax credit permanent, rewriting immigration laws, eliminating tax subsidies to oil companies, reforming the tax system. Much of this list got caught up in the debate over the budget and spending.

Now the President's list of accomplishments is shorter -- and the goals less ambitious:a free trade deal with South Korea, killing an ObamaCare reporting requirement for small businesses, creating a website to show taxpayers where their tax dollars go.

It's a laudable goal to create a website to help people understand how their tax dollars are used -- but it's not quite what I'd call a stretch goal.

According to Scott Hodge of the Tax Foundation, the website is a good attempt at educating people but it does not reflect reality. Here's what he had to say:

1)If you select one of their examples, say a family earning $50,000 with one child, it shows them with an income tax liability of $260. While that is probably accurate, that family is getting far more in government services and benefits than $260 - probably ten times as much. See the chart below on how much people get in government spending for every dollar of taxes they pay. On the flip side, if I put the amount of taxes that I pay into the calculator, it will show how my $18,000 was spent. However, at my income level I probably got less than $18,000 worth of benefits or services from government. The calculator does not reflect that.

2)The deficit. The government is borrowing .40 cents of every dollar it spends. Meaning, everyone in America is getting 40% more government than they are paying for. So if I pay $1,000 in taxes, I'm actually getting $1,400 worth of government. The calculator doesn't reflect that.

Bottom line, Lots of people are getting more government than they are paying for and some are getting a lot less than they are paying for (it's called redistribution). And we are all getting more than we're paying for thanks to the money that is being borrowed from our kids because of the deficit.

Here's another reality: 2010 was a year of modest goals and modest attainment for the president.

But then frankly, there are a lot of initiatives here that I am glad the President didn't get done. Barack Obama's idea of tax reform, for example, probably doesn't match my own.