Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

"Outstanding…Moore Triumphs! Publishers Weekly

Mike & Friends Blog

Jo Comerford

Jo Comerford is Executive Director of the National Priorities Project

April 13th, 2012 11:01 AM

Fifth Grader Says: 'I'm Kind of Mad at the Government'

“If we had a trillion dollars,” dream the youth of Bresee Community Center in Los Angeles, “we would buy materials to build homeless shelters, rehabilitation centers, skate parks and soccer fields.”

Young people from the Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School in New York City would buy 7,867,443,030 lifesaver water bottles to decrease the water-borne illnesses that claim countless lives globally.

Raven, age 18, from Pittsburgh, said, “If I had a trillion dollars I would use the money to help ensure that all schools, no matter if they are in low-income neighborhoods or not, have the resources they need. I would fund more after-school programs, and use it for scholarships so that kids who don't come from well-off families have a chance to go to college.” Her classmates would “sweep the world of poverty and pollution.”

In Chicago students need textbooks. In Ft. Lauderdale they are fighting to keep arts programs alive. Kentucky youth want more research labs to fight disease and money for renewable energy. And in Tennessee Grace, age 14, would “spend it on a foundation to fight prejudices of all kinds.”

These young people, and dozens more, entered the second annual If I Had a Trillion Dollars (IHTD) national youth film contest sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee and National Priorities Project. On April 16, they head to the U.S. Capitol for a congressional film screening and more than 30 meetings in the House and Senate.

With no shortage of ideas and tax day approaching, their timing couldn't be better.

Ninety-nine years ago, ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, made the collection of federal income taxes permanent. At that time, only 1 percent of people paid federal income tax.

This year, the vast majority of U.S. households – approximately 100 million – will file federal tax returns on income earned in 2011. Individual federal income taxes have become the government's single largest revenue source, exceeding $1 trillion dollars and amounting to more than 47 percent of all 2011 revenue, nearly six times the total contribution of all U.S. corporations.

Individual income taxes go into a big pot of money called the federal fund. Congress allocates this fund every single year. In short, people pay our nation's bills.

How do the spending priorities in Congress match up with these young people? Henry, a fifth-grade IHTD participant from Needham, Massachusetts sums it up: “I'm kind of mad at the government.”

In 2011, 27 cents of each federal income tax dollar went to the military, namely the Department of Defense, military construction, war and foreign military aid. Of that 27 cents, 6.79 cents of each dollar was earmarked for weapons purchases. In fact, weapons purchases cost more than twice as much as the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or Food Stamps) combined.

Only two and a half cents of every tax dollars went toward education – to things like Pell Grants, Head Start and grants to community colleges. Fewer than two pennies of each dollar funded programs in the energy and environment, transportation, international affairs and scientific research sectors with high speed rail and the Global Fund to Fight Aids each coming in at one one-hundredth of a penny.

But there's hope. Herby, age 16, from Miami said, “an educated world is a more open-minded world.” And tax day provides the way in. It's imperative that all Americans get informed and engage in the heated debate over how our tax dollars are spent by our nation's government. It's both our right, our responsibility and the exquisite privilege of our Democracy.

What will the country look like when more people of all ages, backgrounds, and beliefs understand and influence where their tax dollars go? Let's find out. The Los Angeles youth are ready to start college, “ready to change the world.” So we had better get started.

Jo Comerford is the Executive Director of National Priorities Project (NPP). NPP envisions and works for an effective and accountable federal government that promotes our general welfare. We believe the U.S. federal budget will reflect the values and priorities of the majority of Americans when all people have the opportunity and ability to participate in shaping the nation's budget. Visit them on line to generate your own 2011 income tax receipt:

You must log in to comment.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Log in | Register

If you have a moment today, I hope you can read the obituary for my father Francis (Frank) Moore, who died this past Saturday at the age of 92: Francis...

Apr 22nd
6:33 PM
Read More

My father, Francis (Frank) Moore, passed away this morning a few months shy if his 93rd birthday. He was a great dad I am blessed to have had him in my life. I...

Apr 20th
2:58 AM
Read More

Time to put the cuffs on Chris Christie -- not for the bridge scandal, but for this: Chris Christie's $300m pension proposal broke state anti-corruption...

Apr 18th
7:31 PM
Read More

George W. Bush Debuts New Paintings Of Dogs, Friends, Ghost Of Iraqi Child That Follows Him... President Bush has a new hobby -- painting! --...

Apr 17th
7:28 PM
Read More

Big new story from David Sirota and Pando on top Christie adviser and appearance of corruption at New Jersey's pension fund: REVEALED: Gov....

Apr 17th
12:41 PM
Read More

FBI Uncovers Al-Qaeda Plot To Just Sit Back And Enjoy Collapse Of United States WASHINGTON—The FBI announced today that it has uncovered a...

Apr 15th
3:28 PM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel's top donor bought stock in Marriott just before it was awarded huge contract As schools are closed and pensions cut,...

Apr 9th
2:00 PM
Read More

I'll be at First Time Fest today in New York City at the screening of my first film, Roger & Me. Loews Village 7 at 12:30 pm. Come see it on the big...

Apr 5th
9:48 AM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel cuts public pensions, diverts money to benefit campaign donors If you've read the financial news out of Chicago the last...

Apr 4th
2:19 PM
Read More

Please take a moment today to think of Casey Austin Sheehan, son of Cindy and Patrick, who was murdered by U.S. foreign policy in Sadr City, Baghdad ten years...

Apr 4th
2:00 PM
Read More

ICYMI - I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence...

Apr 3rd
7:38 PM
Read More

I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention...

Apr 2nd
8:27 PM
Read More

I am opposed to the death penalty, but to every rule there is usually an exception, and in this case I hope the criminals at General Motors will be arrested...

Apr 1st
3:55 PM
Read More

How Long Some in the US Will Survive Under New Health Law Donna Smith Those who must access care to live and can afford it are not...

Mar 31st
10:13 PM
Read More

Last night, The Good Wife on the East Coast started 40 minutes late due to the overrun of the NCAA basketball game. If you had your DVR set for the show, you...

Mar 24th
5:41 PM
Read More

Watching films today, looking for the ones I'm going to pick for my film festival this summer. I (and a whole bunch of others!) have this thing we put on...

Mar 23rd
4:48 PM
Read More

When the U.S. Health Care System Keeps Killing, Who Cares Enough to Fight? Donna Smith We have largely forgotten that people are at...

Mar 21st
5:56 PM
Read More

Tell the White House not to give up on Dr. Vivek Murthy's nomination as Surgeon General despite the ferocious opposition from the NRA: Don't give...

Mar 21st
5:38 PM
Read More

This criminal would never see a jail cell, nor would his cronies. In fact, they'd later be rewarded with re-election: Presidential Address on War with...

Mar 19th
9:40 PM
Read More

The crime of the century -- our invasion & slaughter in Iraq -- started 11 years ago tonite in this 7pm (ET) hour, March 19th, 2003: CNN Coverage of...

Mar 19th
9:08 PM
Read More

Washington’s Back-to-the-Future Military Policies in Africa Nick Turse Nick Turse is an award-winning journalist, historian,...

Mar 17th
4:59 PM
Read More

"I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world." -- Tony Benn, 1925-2014 Tony Benn in 'Sicko'

Mar 14th
10:07 AM
Read More

RIP Tony Benn, one of the UK's greatest leaders: Tony Benn, veteran Labour politician, dies aged 88 Former cabinet minister died at...

Mar 14th
9:53 AM
Read More

Please read this important story from K. Ford K.: Am I the Face of the New American Middle Class? I began to feel I had slipped so low...

Mar 13th
2:24 PM
Read More

Yesterday Dianne Feinstein revealed that the CIA has been spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee. This is all about the report the committee has produced...

Mar 12th
6:48 PM
Read More

Health Care for All Colorado has brought Mercy Killers, a show written and performed by Michael Milligan about our murderous for-profit healthcare system, to...

Mar 10th
1:08 PM
Read More

Health Care Dramas that Sting and Why We Have to Watch Donna Smith The realities Milligan has written into the show cut deep into...

Mar 10th
1:02 PM
Read More

Did you know the Lehrer Newshour on PBS has been produced for 20 years by a company owned by conservative cable billionaire John Malone? Me neither. After...

Mar 7th
8:39 PM
Read More

Mr. Obama, if int’l law is so damn crucial . . . | The Russian intervention deserves criticism. But let’s be clear. The...

Mar 6th
1:21 PM
Read More

Subscribe to Mike's Blog RSS

Click here to suggest an article

Mike's Blog

See More Blogs

Vew the archives

View older articles