One man's pork spending is another's "relative bargain" according to the "Follow the Money" segment on the April 15 "CBS Evening News."
The newscast commemorated Tax Day by featuring what federal tax dollars are spent on, but what they chose to highlight was peculiar.
"The biggest tab for taxpayers is defense," CBS correspondent Bob Orr reported. "The average American household is paying $2,761 in 2007 - or put another way, enough to cover 12 car payments for a new Honda Accord. Social security is nearly as expensive, $2,663 - enough to heat and cool a home for a year. In total, the average tax bill this year tops $13,000 and most taxpayers have no idea what the government is doing with their cash."
Orr was correct on both accounts, but he left out one other key expenditure that rivals social security and defense - spending on health care entitlements.
According to Matt Fiedler, a researcher at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "three health insurance programs - Medicare, Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) - together accounted for 21 percent of the budget in 2007, or $572 billion."
For the report, Orr used talking points from a group that openly discloses they are left-of-center on most issues - Third Way. However, Orr didn't disclose that in his reporting - only referring to a organization spokesman as a "taxpayer advocate."
"Now taxpayer advocate [Third Way Vice President for Policy] Jim Kessler has prepared a receipt, an itemized breakout of government spending," Orr said. "The average household is paying $19 for the office that tracks hurricanes, about the cost of a fancy umbrella. Just over 12 bucks for national parks, about the cost of one bleacher seat at the new Nationals ball park. Some seem like relative bargains, $313 for education, $99 for farmers, and just $62 for all federal law enforcement. But another big-ticket item is interest on the national debt. The average taxpayer is forking out more than a thousand dollars this year."