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

By Alden WickerLearnVest

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.

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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.