‘Cost Of Government’ Date Is Reached Today

WaPo – ‘Cost Of Government’ Date Is Reached Today

A group that favors smaller government will celebrate another kind of independence day today, marking the date by which the average American worker has earned enough money to cover his or her share of the cost of federal, state and local government.

The day was reached 24 hours earlier this year than in 2003, largely because of rising national income, according to a report to be released today by Americans for Tax Reform. “[W]orking people must toil on average 189 days out of the year just to meet all the costs imposed by government,” said the 12-page report compiled by researcher Daniel M. Clifton. “In other words, the cost of government consumes 51.6 percent of national income.”

The reduction by one day in reaching the “cost of government” date reverses a three-year trend in which rising federal spending and economic hard times combine to add 10 days over those three years to the amount of time it takes the average worker to pay off government’s tab. “We gained a day,” said Grover G. Norquist, the group’s president. “So the question now is — having lived through 2001, 2002, 2003 and the growth of government as a percentage of the economy that took place — what direction do we go now?”

The report estimates that the average American worker had to labor 86 days to cover the cost of federal spending, 42.9 days to pay for state and local government spending and 59.6 days to cover the cost of state and federal regulations.


The group has issued cost-of-government reports for the past 12 years, and has studied data going back 27 years. Since 1977, the soonest Americans were able to pay off the cost of government was June 28 in 2000, the group said. It took until July 19 in 1982, the latest date the group has identified.

Because of varying tax and spending burdens, some states reach the cost-of-government date faster than others. Alaska reached it the fastest this year, on June 16. Connecticut, with the heaviest burden, will not reach its cost-of-government date until July 29. For Washington, D.C., the date is July 27.


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. shank says:

    Speaking of which; I wonder when Michael Moore reaches his ‘Cost of Bacon Cheese Burgers’ day every year?

    Back on topic, even if it is fuzzy math, it’s still an indicator that our government (much like our citizenry) might be getting a little to large around the middle.