Cost of Govt. Day in 2008: July 16

By Keriann Hopkins | July 17, 2008 | 4:22 PM EDT

Washington ( – July 16 was Cost of Government Day – that day of the year when average Americans finish paying off their share of federal, state, and local taxes and the cost of complying with regulations.
“Finally, starting today, you are working for yourself and no longer for Uncle Sam,” said Brian Riedl, senior policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
This year, Cost of Government Day occurred four days later than last year because of increasing tax burdens, but also higher regulatory costs, according to Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), which released its annual Cost of Government Day report at a Washington news conference on Wednesday.

“All the regulations the government imposes ... none of them are free. They cost resources. And sometimes you don’t have to send a dollar to Washington ... in order to lose it – you just have to pay a higher price for a car, or a house, or a consumer product because of a regulatory cost,” said ATR President Grover Norquist.
The report, calculated by ATR’s Center for Fiscal Accountability, takes into account the total spending burden as a percentage of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP), coupled with the cost of complying with government regulations.
Norquist said the average American worked:
-- 84 days to fund federal spending
-- 50 days to pay for state and local spending
-- 42 days to cover federal regulation
-- 21 days to pay for state/local regulation
Combined, on average, Americans worked 197 days -- 54 percent of the year -- to pay their share of the cost of government, he said.
Singer and actor Pat Boone, who served as spokesman for the 60 Plus Association, told reporters Wednesday that Cost of Government Day “hurts” more every year.
“I’m not an economist, but boy, I am a taxpayer, and it hurts when I hear the latest statistic that I put in over half my time, as we all do, just to chip into the federal coffers,” Boone said.
“The golden goose that lays the golden eggs that keeps America going is the taxpayer or the small businessman – the hardworking folks across America,” Boone said. “And somehow we’ve got to convince those we’ve elected to represent us that they’ve got to quit killing the golden goose.”
According to Riedl, in 2008, Washington will spend $25,117 per household, the highest inflation-adjusted total since World War II. That represents $5,000 more per household than in 2001.
He claims that, for the money, America gets an inefficient government.
“We get defense departments that spent $1 million shipping two 19-cent washers from South Carolina to Texas; a government that freely admits that 38 percent of its own programs don’t work; a government that writes 342 overlapping economic development programs and 130 programs for at-risk youth, and a government that makes at least $55 billion in overpayments each year,” Riedl said.
Bill Frenzel, a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution and former Republican congressman from Minnesota, told Cybercast News Service he also thinks the government is inefficient.
“I think everyone agrees – those who want to spend more and those who want to spend a lot less – that government spending has never been considered a model of efficiency, so you almost have to concede that point before you start. The question is: how do you make it better?” he said.
The Cost of Government Day report warns of the looming entitlement crisis of programs such as Social Security and Medicare that, if left unchecked, will inflate the cost of the government.
Although less than 5 percent of the GDP now, a recent government report places the cost of the social programs at over 20 percent of the GDP by 2050.
“Nobody likes a great big deficit,” said Frenzel, “but somewhere down the line there is going to be a day of reckoning, and we either are going to have to spend a lot less or tax more, or do some of both.”
Riedl said that any plan that would raise taxes to climb out of the economic crisis is “budgetary fantasyland.”
He concluded, “Not surprisingly, Cost of Government Day continues to move away from Independence Day and closer to Halloween.”