I enjoy reading the descriptions of natural history that condense the life of the universe into the scale of a single year, sometimes called the Cosmic Calendar, so that if the Big Bang happened on January 1, the solar system formed on September 2, life on Earth started on September 21, fish appeared on December 17, the ice age ended on December 31 at 11:59:33 p.m, and so on. I also appreciate the similar scaling of the federal income tax and the concept of Tax Freedom Day, the day of the year on which the nation has earned total income equal to its federal and state income tax burden. It's in late April.
Something I read inspired me to condense income taxes and the federal budget into a single workweek -- the Laquedem Cosmic Federal Budget Workweek. Imagine that your annual work and income are condensed into a single workweek of five 8-hour days, each running from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (For this exercise, skip lunch and breaks.) The tax freedom moment is Tuesday at 1:29 p.m., including state taxes. Your federal income tax freedom moment is Tuesday morning at 9:20 a.m.
But let's take this scale one step farther. If your income tax is allocated ratably among the $2.854 trillion (net of certain offsetting revenues including Social Security and Medicare taxes) that our federal government spends, for how much of the LCFBW are you working for which program?
The answer is that from 9:00 to 10:52:19 Monday you're working for the Defense Department, from 10:52:20 to 12:37:26 you're funding other discretionary spending, from 12:37:27 to 1:19:39 you're funding the interest on the national debt, from 1:19:40 to 2:24:08 you're funding Medicaid, and from 2:24:09 to 3:51:23 you're funding the gap between Social Security and Medicare tax revenues and expenses. For the rest of the Monday (remember, no breaks!) and 20 minutes Tuesday morning you're supporting everything else the government does that has some mandatory element, including SNAP (food stamps), federal and military retirement benefits, the earned income credit, some veterans' programs, and unemployment benefits, net of all offsetting revenue.
Mr. Trump proposes to cut funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. How much of your workweek goes to support those three programs? Last year the federal government funded public broadcasting with $445 million and sent about $150 million each to NEH and NEA. On the Laquedem Cosmic Federal Budget Workweek scale, one minute equals $5.708 billion and one second equals $95 million. The answer, then, is that the $745 million for those three programs together correspond to about eight seconds of your workweek. If you read at a respectable 300 words per minute, in the time it took you to read this post you funded your share of the three programs twelve times over. Now get back to work.