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The debate over the Bush tax cut has put our bloated federal budget on display. Unfortunately the majority of Americans still are missing the main point: The growth of the federal government is out of control.

In a report issued by the Institute for Policy Innovation, “The Most Expensive Government in World History,” author Stephen Moore points out that today’s top tax bracket, 39.6 percent, would have been inconceivable 200, 100 or even 50 years ago.

Moore says the American people have been “bullied” into accepting extremely high tax rates by three events which changed all the rules for revenue collections: the 1913 imposition of the income tax, two World Wars and the creation of the Social Security program with its payroll taxes. “The pattern is clear: During periods of war, income taxes are raised and never reduced to pre-war levels.”

Over time, spending large amounts of our hard-earned money has become a “right” to those who represent us in the United States Congress, and, when anyone talks of limiting that right, our representatives scream bloody murder. They maintain that any cut will cause the most unfortunate members of our society extreme pain and bring about the end of the world, as we know it.

In reality, very little of their overspending affects the poor. It does, however, affect the ability of congressmen and senators to bestow favors on their rich and powerful friends, who, in turn, reward those congressmen and senators with large campaign donations which help all those big spenders get re-elected.

In 1920, Moore’s report states, “The federal government took five percent of the national income. Today, it takes between 20 and 25 percent.” Since the 1950s alone, the average household’s tax bill has increased fourfold. In 1999, the average U.S. family paid a whopping $27,200 in taxes.

Last year, during the run-up to the election, domestic appropriations bills shamelessly were padded with some $30 billion in added expenditures in the last days of the congressional session. According to Moore’s calculations, that extra spending, over 10 years reduced the expected surplus available for tax cuts some $250 billion. That money could have been used to pay for the immediate repeal of the death tax.

How is it that this huge amount of money could have been wasted without drawing any real attention, without raising any eyebrows? Have we been so conditioned to the Congress throwing billions around that this figure has lost its meaning, or is it that this figure is so large that there is no way the average citizen can comprehend what it means to spend a billion dollars?

Here are some examples gleaned from friends with heavy duty calculators at the Republican Study Committee and the National Taxpayer’s Union Foundation that will help:

  • If you put in a 40-hour workweek, you’d have to work for 114,155 years to work a billion hours.

  • If you had a great year at work and made $100,000, you’d have to bring in the same income for 10,000 years to earn a billion dollars.

  • If you put away $100 a week, without interest, it would take you 192,307 years to save a billion dollars.

  • If you stood on a street corner and handed out one dollar per minute, it would take 1,902 years to hand out one billion dollars.

  • If you went on a $1,000 shopping spree today and every day until you spent one billion dollars, you’d have to shop every day for 2,740 years.

  • If you had a billion dollars to spend and paid no taxes, you could buy 240,755 pounds of gold at mid-March prices or 6,667 average ($150,000) American homes or 2,222,222 washing machines or 24,423 Cadillac DeVille four-door sedans seating 146,538 people in luxury.

  • A billion one-dollar bills would cover 94,697 miles or cross the U.S. coast-to-coast almost 32 times, or reach half way to the moon.

  • If you wanted to travel a billion miles, you’d have to make more than five round trips to and from the sun or 40,158 trips around the Earth.

  • If you got into a time machine and set it to take you back a billion minutes, you’d find yourself in the year 98, during the early days of the Roman Empire.

  • Finally, if you wanted to hold your breath long enough to make your congressional representatives stop spending and it took a billion seconds, you’d have to hold your breath for 32 years.

    As you can see, a billion is a serious number. It’s time all of us begin paying enough attention to see that our representatives in Washington start treating it that way.

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