On October 28th, I wrote a blog post, “The NSA’s Rent is Too Damn High,” in which I looked at the $52.6 billion price tag for America’s spook infrastructure — the so-called “black budget.” When allocated across every American taxpayer, this staggering sum comes out to $574 per taxpayer, per year.
But, there are other edifying ways of gaining perspective on such a whopping amount of money. Doing so is important. Indeed, according to John Maynard Keynes’ biographer, Lord Skidelsky, Keynes believed that a good economist must always have “a sense of magnitudes.”
We can get a sense of magnitudes by looking at this year’s black budget as a portion of the major sources of the federal government’s revenues. The table below tells that tale.
|Source of Federal Revenue 2012||Amount $ Billion||Black Budget $ Billion||Black Budget as % of Revenue Source|
|Individual Income Taxes||$1,132.21||$52.60||4.6%|
|Corporate Income Taxes||$242.29||$52.60||21.7%|
|Social Insurance Taxes||$845.31||$52.60||6.2%|
|Estate and Gift Taxes||$13.97||$52.60||376.4%|
|Source: Congressional Budget Office|
Steve H. Hanke is a Professor of Applied Economics at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. You can follow Prof. Hanke on Twitter @Steve_Hanke or his website at Cato.