It’s that time of year again. Like millions of Americans — some 50 percent of tax filers, in fact — I am spending many hours assembling various forms and bits of paper that I will turn over to my accountant, who will then go away to add, subtract, depreciate, amortize, deduct, allow, and expense, presenting us in the end with a long and (to me) unintelligible document, a hefty bill for his services, and pulse-rattling totals to be sent to the U.S. Treasury and the treasuries of various states.
Here’s a question. What do you suppose those governmental agencies do with all that dough? Aircraft carriers, I know, are expensive, and I don’t begrudge the federal government a dime for that sort of expense. And the president, I know, must have his vacations. The Daily Caller reported that taxpayers spent $1.4 billion on Obama and his family last year. I can’t say I am thrilled by that, but when you have a federal budget (not, of course, that we have actually had a budget under Obama) of nearly $4 trillion, $1.4 billion might seem almost reasonable. Almost. (OK, it really doesn’t.)
But what about the rest of the dough? Put the federal spedning to one side for a moment. What about the trillions upon trillions that the state and local governments spend? Where’s that go? One of the most irritating aspects of the carnival of fiscal irresponsibility we’ve been subjected to in recent decades is the fact that no matter how much money we send to our masters in Washington and in our state capitals and local bursaries, they always spend more, a lot more, than they get. The $16-point-whatever trillion federal debt gets loads of attention, but what about the billions upon billions in debt that various states have racked up? California is essentially bankrupt, ditto Illinois, New York, and many other states. My own state of Connecticut is in a bad way, but why? The population of the state has been stable these past few decades, yet expenditures, and debt, have skyrocketed. Why’s that?
It’s been tricky to answer such questions. Until now. A public-spirited chap called Adam Andrzejewski got fed up with the lack of governmental transparency and decided to do something about it. Hence his invaluable website Open the Books, a project of For the Good of Illinois, Inc., a non-partisan, non-profit organization founded by Mr. Andrzejewski in 2007. The goal of Open the Books is something that the Obama administration came to office promising but never delivered: transparency. Hence its motto: “Every dime. Online.”
They haven’t quite got there yet, but their database is a formidable thing, and if I were a government or state or municipal employee (or former employee) I would blush to browse through the records it has assembled. Take a look. While you’re waiting to find out how much more money you will have to send to the bureaucrats who live so well off your hard work, contemplate what the “public servants” in your neck of the woods pull down in salaries or pensions. Here are a few screen shots:
First, I asked for recent Connecticut state and local salaries.
Mr. Calhoun was a successful college athletic coach. I wonder if the taxpayers are happy about those many millions? Or how about the millions to various unnamed teachers in Avon, Canterbury, and elsewhere?
Then I thought I’d look at Illinois salaries. It’s good to be a dean in Illinois:
Illinois also seems to be a good place to retire if you are a “public servant.” Here is the beginning of a list of MONTHLY pension payments.
Not bad, eh? I mean not bad for the folks collecting on your money because various unions have the politicians in their pockets.
I hope that Open the Books will become more widely known. There is a trove of information there about the expenditures of every state, many localities, and the federal government. It is partly sobering, partly infuriating. Perhaps Mr. Andrzejewski will take up my idea and start a new not-for-profit called Throw The Bums Out.org.