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Tax System that allows people to choose how their money would be spent.

My idea is to set aside a SMALL percentage of taxes which the taxpayer got to choose how to spend it. Options would include a listing of various social programs, new technologies, public education, healthcare, public works like roads, defense or even programs registered by ordinary citizens. The taxpayer could also have the option to let the government handle the money like before.
The advantages might include:
1. an increased accountability of these programs since the taxpayer might do a considerable amount of research into the efficiency and total effectiveness of the program.
2. a democratic way to fund programs that people want
3. a way to introduce new programs and ideas
4. a way to increase taxes without upsetting people
5. a percentage of the budget would be accountable by the public.

My vision would be to have a website where taxpayers would browse through a variety of programs, read up on the information, and decide how to allocate their money. They also would have the ability to create their own program and try to attract supporters.

Obviously I don't know if this plan would be viable (and please correct me if i'm wrong). Thanks for considering.

  • Oct 12 2011: It's a great idea. Except for the fact that we don't know where each dollar goes now....and they're not about to tell us.
    "Transparent accounting" has been a promise, every election since, well, forever. Maybe if the country's 'books' were available for view, online, in real time, and maintained 'current', as any decent accountant would do, it would work.
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      Oct 14 2011: Even if we said where we wanted it to go, there is no way to prove or disprove they're actually using it for that purpose.
  • Oct 12 2011: so, just to clarify, why have this money go to the government at all? Why not have you (and me and our neighbors) just KEEP the money in the first place, and never give it to the government at all. Then, we can decide with our own wallets which social initiatives we want to contribute to; which technology companies we want to support by buying stocks or bonds from; what new programs we want to invest our own time and money in (the arts, theater, religious programs, anything you want!) This is the ultimate democracy and the ultimate freedom. Why do you need government to take your money to do these things? Why make it get political?
    • Oct 12 2011: appreciate the comment. You make a strong valid point that I personally don't necessarily disagree with(though the other side has good points too).
      However, it doesn't seem like we can jump from big government to small government so quickly. There is a fear about the people's ability to handle social problems, as well as general destabilization.
      You can think of this as a stepping stone towards where you want to be-- to prove that the public in general are able and fully willing to engage with various problems in society.
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        Oct 16 2011: We already have huge % of people who have nothing to lose so there is no drawbacks to establishing a parallel state for them. And I believe that parallel economy would be much better off in very short time then our main economy.
  • Oct 12 2011: I just wanted to respectfully point out that I think this suggestion you made indicates that you have been completely disconnected and cut off from the idea that Government is Of the People, By the People, and For the People. The government exists 100% to serve YOU through its limited constitutional functions, funded by a very small and necessary level of taxation. For you to meekly ask that YOUR government let YOU decide what to do with YOUR MONEY that YOU EARNED when they CONFISCATE it from you via taxes - think about that for a second. Here's a better idea -- government cuts its spending by 90% -- focusing ONLY on functions narrowly mandated by the Constitution - and lets you, me, our neighbors, our communities, cities, counties, and states -- all independently decide how to spend our own money? Your system can simply be achieved by having us cut taxes dramatically, cut government dramatically, and have us all live our own lives and form our own initiatives - individually or in groups - without filtering it through the massive, coercive, pay-your-taxes-or-go-to-jail monster behemoth of Big Government.
  • Oct 11 2011: I love the idea, but to some degree it already exists.

    Federal income tax was created in 1913, but a common argument against it was that a person's money was already going to social and public services such as education, hospitals, religious institutions, and arts and culture. People argued that with income tax, they no longer could afford to support these institutions and lost the ability to chose where their money went, instead placing the decision in the hands of government.

    The not-for-profit sector was created out of this, enabling taxpayers to redirect their income towards qualifying institutions, and to not have to pay income tax on these "donations" which might be better looked at as "direct support." By funding these establishments, each of us in fact does choose where our tax dollars goes, reducing our tax liability and directly infusing support based on our interests and values.

    Perhaps what is needed is a reconsideration of our perception "charity," and a shifting of this idea towards that of our "responsibility" to directly support the organizations we value.
    • Oct 11 2011: Thanks for responding. This is a very good point that I didn't think to intimately about.

      In the not-for-profit sector there is an increased sense of awareness, transparency and accountability that the government programs do not share. I was trying to fuse the not-for-profit sector with various government programs in an attempt to bring some of the positive effects into the government programs.

      The way government programs receive much of their budget is by appeasing to a smaller government base. I was hoping that this idea might bring some transparency since the people might be better motivated to contribute to programs that are more transparent.

      Also, I believe that the statistical information provided by these taxes might shed some light upon what the people truly want and could further be used to formulate the distribution of the real budget.

      I suppose the last advantage might be the globalization of the not-for-profit sector in one convenient place. These organizations would be able to have consistent revenue, and new ideas would have a place to gain recognition without expensive advertisement.

      I acknowledge that this might be a rather optimistic view, and encourage further criticism or support.
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    Oct 16 2011: I love this idea and I think it is being practiced in certain areas of Great Britian. I vaguely remember a documentary where anyone in certain towns can attend the votes for where certain monies are directed. I think it has the added value of holding citizens accountable for what they demand of government.
  • Oct 16 2011: Great idea! I beleave in it
  • Oct 16 2011: This topic ends very soon.

    I want to thank everyone who supported or opposed the idea. Its great that so many people have different perspectives.

    I hope that the conversation made you think a little bit as it did for me.
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    Oct 16 2011: Slovenia already allows us to asign 0.5% of our income tax to charity of our choice.

    Your suggestion is a direct democracy limited to managing taxes. Why not go all the way?

    I am starting a project that is a combination of direct democracy and a friend2friend currency.

    The goals of the new value system:
    * retain the good parts of the invention named money
    * the value in the new system has to be unlimited, but it also has to retain value
    * the new system has to be inclusive, it has to let anybody to participate
    * the new transactions will always be traceable, thus easing crime and abuse detection
    * the value in new system has to be immune to stealing
    * the new system has to prevent unnecessary global financial turbulences
    * the new system has to increase personal freedom of participants
    * the new system has to reduce systematic abuse by enforcing direct and personal responsibility

    If you are interested in more info check it out:
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    Oct 16 2011: I think it's a great idea. Instead of leaving the decision of resource allocation to the politicians. If any political party would want a budget allocated for their pet program they would have to present a spending plan. This would achieve at least 3 things 1, it could weed out any frivolous spending, 2, the public will be given a chance to provide input on how to better spend that money and can vote out any unjustifiable budget items, 3, the transparency imposes a built -in accountability. This would probably free up a lot funds that would otherwise be spent corruptly or ineptly.

    It doesn't have to be done all at once. We can start with the top 20-30% of the budget allocation and work our way to a 100%.This assessment can undertaken by students as part of their curriculum. Groups of cross- disciplined students can conduct the audit and assessments of the budgets and present their findings and recommendations to the public for consideration. The system won't be perfect but it can be streamlined over time. Just some thoughts, I want to put out there for refinement.
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    Oct 14 2011: Although there is a real need for tax reform, this particular strategy you propose is not feasible/realistic. It would have a deleterious effect on institutions that by their very nature need stability of funds to operate.

    I also believe that such a strategy would lead to special interest gridlock.
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    Oct 14 2011: i think its a good idea, and its time we give more power back to the people its our money we should more of a say over it i have a belief that the people should act more of a boss of a country and instead of having politicians and political parties we should industry experts across all areas,scientist, engineers , architects, social engineers, experts in law and economics, and you could have them give proposal on there idea for the city and the people vote on the best one so if you want our money we need good proposal and the ability to get it done in set contract period, this would take politics out of it and you it would mange our money more efficiently would could have a federal e voting affecting the country then perhaps local affecting your city, that is the overview i guess but i believe suggestions like yours are a first step to giving people more power and say of our money, i believe politicians forget all to quickly that it is the tax payers dollars that there wasting.
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    Oct 14 2011: this idea can be tried in a tiny island nation with population
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    Oct 13 2011: Great idea!!!!
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    Oct 12 2011: How could this possibly work? Because the rich, who provide most of the tax revenue, would then be dictating how the tax revenue is used. And you can be certain that it would be used to benefit only programs they support. How would you protect essential programs that assist the needy?
    • Oct 12 2011: Indeed the rich do control most of the tax revenue.
      1. this is only a small percentage of the tax revenue. many programs would still rely a large amount upon their regular budget, and would barely be effected.
      2. many preexisting nonprofit social programs for the needy are already largely funded by the rich. Not everyone acts according to their direct benefits, and there is a large overlap between the needs of all social classes.

      It is perhaps plausible that the rich do indeed choose to favor certain programs over others. With the statistical information gathered from the system, we could determine if this is truly how the rich would behave.

      The goal here is not to completely reallocate the budget, but to promote social engagement, program accountability and transparency, provide useful statistical information, and provide a mechanism to introduce new ideas.
  • Oct 12 2011: Could citizens which purchase Treasury Bills dictate where the funds are allocated?

    What about foreign countries which purchase T-Bills, such as China?

    The idea sounds REALLY GOOD - until you realize 40% of the budget does not come from tax revenue but from borrowed money. Then the implications get . . .really bad.

    • Oct 12 2011: Haha, yeah that would be very bad.

      I would like to point out that this would only work with only a small percentage of taxes.
      The citizens could only dictate what happened to that small percentage that they personally paid.
      Since other countries do not pay taxes, but lend money, they do not get to decide how to allocate the money.

      I don't think much power is going to be taken away from the government, and that isn't the objective.
  • Oct 11 2011: I like this idea, it makes a lot of sense but there is a problem. The motivation of the public to voice their opinions as well as access to the internet.

    Otherwise it would work I believe. I would also add to this a set in stone tax on income of 13%. Rather than adjusting it based on income. This way everyone would pay their share and poorer people would not get hosed.
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    Oct 11 2011: A customized tax item for the future.

    I think it will be a good idea to use a similar system. Maybe we do not have it at the moment, but
    it sure sounds good.

    I love it.
  • Oct 11 2011: I love this idea - and I think starting with a small amount of money would be a good way to start.
    at the very least you would be encouraging involvementfrom the population - giving them an actual stake in what’s going on would encourage people to get educated & debate any ideas.
  • Oct 10 2011: Wow, good idea....the logistics would be hard and u would need a well educated population but with time and effort and hell of a lot IT ... could work deffo. Awesome idea. love it!