Clean Power

Published on April 9th, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan


Where My Taxes Went (& Why You Should Care)

April 9th, 2012 by  

I filed my taxes yesterday. Thanks to the White House’s Federal Taxpayer Receipt page, I could see just where that money was going. Unfortunately, seeing where my money goes isn’t very inspiring. Even before entering your tax numbers, you can see the percentage breakdown:

As you can see, the greatest percentage goes to national defense, accounting for practically 1/4 of our taxes. A large portion of that ‘defense budget’, from what I’ve gleaned, is actually for wars and a military presence related to our country’s addiction to oil. Meanwhile, probably the top threats to human civilization (including U.S. civilization) today and in the foreseeable future — global warming, water insecurity, and food insecurity — are all but ignored. ‘Natural Resources, Energy, and Environment’ (which would also include dirty energy, of course) get more than a dozen times less funding, less of our tax money, than ‘National Defense’.

Disheartening? Yes, I think so.

We are facing a societal existential threat, and instead of addressing that with full force — wiping out the problem before it wipes us out — we are unwilling to bump up that 2% just a tiny little percent. Meanwhile, we get into trade wars with China for its clean energy subsidies.

Instead of saying, ‘hey, we should probably do something significant to make sure our climate stays within human livability, we have one side of the political spectrum making one solar company failure into a supposed scandal (ignoring the thousands of successful solar power companies that are providing the U.S. with over 100,000 jobs). We have those same folks turning an innovative car, winner of the 2012 European Car of the Year Award, into a political punching bag over what is essentially not even worthy evening news.

These analogies have been used many times, but I think they are worth repeating:

If a giant asteroid were flying towards Earth, we would do everything in our power to stop, avert, or destroy it.

If a powerful foreign army were threatening to attack us, destroy our cities (as natural disasters will), disrupt our water supply (as we’re already seeing happen in large portions of the U.S.), disrupt our food supply, and so on, we would pump some serious money into defending ourselves (and probably more).

Why are we so slow to address the similar threat of global warming and its resulting water, food, economic, and national security ramifications?

To wrap up, I’ll just drop this classic cartoon here:

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • Edward Kerr

    Really found the cartoon amusing! Imagine creating a better world for no good reason other than having a better world. What a concept!

    I suspect that these %ages of total revenues are “spun” and that the 43cnts.of every dollar that we spend that is borrowed actually (also) goes to military expenditures. Making our “out-go” a little more than they tell. Of course, I must be a nut to think that the govt would ever lie about anything.

    It often drives me to total confusion when I think about how insane the world has become. Lies become truth. Good becomes bad. (and vise versa)

    Even if one takes “climate change possibilities” out of the equation, we face serious difficulties ahead as the ramifications of “peak oil” and “unsustainable growth” bare their sharp teeth. When I see the world skipping blithely toward the precipice it fills me with despair as I have grandchildren and I care about your progeny too. Did I mention anger too? I mean how stupid can supposedly smart people be? Can they not see the train coming and realize that they stand on the tracks?

    Why a story on the way taxes are spent has led me to rant I’m not sure though it appears that the “right side” of my bed is against the wall.

    Good post Zach. Maybe if we continue to flail about and wave our arms they will see the danger and come to their senses.


    • Thanks, Edward — always appreciate your rants 😀


  • ThomasGerke

    Look on the bright side, the US military is now investing in green energy… their primary goal is sustainable war fighting capability though. :-/

    Your asteroid example was nice. All governments of the world would actually get their act together and do something for that. In fact there is actually an international planetary defence initiative already called “Project NEOShield”!

    The “problem” of global warming is that it happens “slow” to in laymen terms. Somewhere I read a scientist describe it as “an asteroid impact in super slow motion”… the low speed of the catastrophe does favour procrastination & putting responsibility on future generations 🙁

    • Yeah, that’s the issue. And I don’t know if they ever were, but politicians today certainly don;t look that far into the future — they are more concerned with short-term success and political wins. Unfort.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I’ve known a few people in the military. To a person they dislike war and view the necessity of fighting to be due to the failure of politicians/leaders to do their jobs competently.

      What the US military is now doing will, if fact, increase their fighting ability. But in that they are likely to greatly advance renewable energy they are also removing a problem for future politicians/leaders.

      The less we have to depend on imported energy sources, the fewer international conflicts we should expect.

      Then there’s the issue of very large numbers of people being forced to relocate as the climate changes. This is likely to be a problem not easily solved and an opportunity for political failure….

  • Tad_Knackers


    • Bob_Wallace

      Support all peaceful people.

      And turn off your caps lock key.

  • lukealization

    Yep. America needs to drastically cut it’s military budget and spending.

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