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Fiscal Cliff Breakdown: How the Government Spends Your Precious Tax Dollars

The debate has been heating up over the fiscal cliff–and not just in Congress.

Last week, we ran a personal opinion piece from a couple that felt they were being unfairly taxed.

It spawned a couple hundred comments, many of which questioned the wisdom of raising taxes when the government could cut wasteful spending instead.

What no one could agree on is what counts as wasteful spending. Is military spending worth it? How about programs that benefit the poor? Spending on infrastructure, like roads and bridges?

This got us to thinking: What does the government actually spend on, and how much? If we, hypothetically, could choose something to cut completely out of the federal budget, how much would the average family save?

So we dug into the numbers to help you understand just how federal spending affects you–and to report on what would happen if automatic cuts (called sequestration) go into effect if the fiscal cliff isn’t resolved. Be prepared to be mystified, mollified and, sometimes, pretty miffed.


Let’s talk about these taxes in terms of the hypothetical family, the Medians–you know, the family whose household income is $52,762, and who pays an 11.1% federal tax rate, which comes out to $5,856 per year

How much did the Medians pay to fund each of these federal spending programs? We’ll tell you.

Bank Rates

Loan Type Graph Rate +/- Last Week
30 Y Fixed Graph 3.92% -- 3.92%  
15 Y Fixed Graph 2.99% up 2.98%  
30 Y Fixed Jumbo Graph 4.31% up 4.24%  
5/1 ARM Graph 3.26% up 3.12%  
5/1 Jumbo ARM Graph 3.84% dw 3.85%  
Loan Type Graph Rate +/- Last Week
$30K HELOC Graph 4.68% up 4.62%  
$50K HELOC Graph 4.10% up 4.04%  
$30K Loan Graph 4.47% dw 4.48%  
$50K Loan Graph 4.12% up 4.11%  
$75K Loan Graph 4.12% up 4.11%  
Loan Type Graph Rate +/- Last Week
36 M New Graph 2.99% dw 3.23%  
36 M Used Graph 3.18% dw 3.33%  
48 M New Graph 3.22% dw 3.32%  
48 M Used Graph 2.72% dw 2.90%  
60 M New Graph 3.33% up 3.31%  
Loan Type Graph Yield +/- Last Week
6 month Graph 0.35% up 0.34%  
1 yr Graph 0.62% -- 0.62%  
5 yr Graph 1.41% up 1.39%