Memo|Economy   2 Minute Read

128 million Americans help government do these 10 things. Is Donald Trump one of them?

Published October 3, 2016

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In the first presidential debate Donald Trump unwittingly let slip that he may not have paid any federal taxes. When pressed on that fact, he first claimed that not paying federal tax makes him smart. He later said his tax dollars would have been “squandered.” Decrying government spending and waste has been a mainstay of political rhetoric since the 18th Century. And there certainly is wasteful government spending to give anyone fodder to complain. But less reported is the overwhelming amount the federal government spends that is done wisely, efficiently, and with near-unanimous support from the country.

With fresh allegations that Donald Trump indeed pays little or no federal income tax, below is a list of 10 items that the roughly 128 million federal income tax payers have contributed to.1 When Donald Trump releases his taxes, Americans can see if he’s one of them.

  1. Since 2001, the Department of Veterans Affairs helped 1,645 soldiers who lost limbs and 7,832 with severe brain trauma rebuild their lives from the sacrifices they made from our war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  2. The U.S. military conducted more than 14,000 airstrikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq to help defeat terror abroad. 
  3. The Department of Interior and U.S. Forest Service fought to suppress, contain, and put out 108,804,000 acres of wildfires since 2000.
  4. The Federal Bureau of Investigations has trained and continues to retrain every three years each of the country's 3,100 public safety bomb technicians to keep America safe from terrorists.
  5. In FY 2015, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency handled 1,048,632 individuals; 72,169 truck, rail, or sea containers; and 282,252 private vehicles entering the United States on average, every single day.
  6. The Social Security Administration employs over 60,000 people and staffs 1,400 field offices so that in 2015, 60 million received $883 billion they earned in benefits.
  7. Federal law enforcement has conducted more than 230 million criminal background checks on firearms purchases since 1998 to keep felons, terrorists, and those with severe mental illness from obtaining a gun.
  8. The Food and Drug Administration issued over 21,000 citations in FY 2015 to factories and producers of food and drugs in violation of health codes that could potentially harm or kill Americans.
  9. The National Park Service helped roughly 307 million visitors have a vacation, explore nature, and share memories with their families in 2015.
  10. The National School Lunch program ensured 30.5 million school children enjoyed 5 billion lunches at a free or reduced price in 2015.

When Donald Trump pays little or no taxes and says it’s because he’s smart and doesn’t like what the government spends its money on, it’s convenient go back to the old $200 hammer or $600 toilet seat. The truth is that most of what the government does, it does efficiently—or at least far more efficiently than people think. And much of what it does is essential. Donald Trump should be proud to contribute to what government is doing, instead of evading and then denigrating it.

  1. Assumes 34% of federal income taxpayer units represent couples that are married filing jointly. See: U.S. Internal Revenue Service, Statistics of Income, “All Returns: Number of Returns,” 2014. Accessed October 3, 2016. Available at: https://www.irs.gov/uac/soi-tax-stats-individual-statistical-tables-by-filing-status.

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