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April 13, 2011

Tax Freedom Day

[Page: S2384]  GPO's PDF 

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Mr. KIRK. Mr. President, last week in Chicago, we announced tax freedom day--the day that marks the time when Illinois residents have paid their Federal and State tax burdens. The Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan organization that determines tax freedom day, found that this year Americans will pay more on their tax burden than they do on food, shelter, and clothing combined. Tax freedom day falls on April 15 in Illinois and on April 12 nationwide.

Yet tax freedom day underestimates how heavy the government's burden is by only reflecting the size of the bills we actually pay to the government, not the spending we are pushing off on future generations in the form of higher deficits and debt. If we paid all of our bills to the government, the way it spends money, tax freedom day would not come until May 23.

With a government that consumes so much, it is fair to ask: Is the government spending as efficiently as possible on programs it is funding? Sadly, it is very clear that waste, fraud, and duplication still exist widely in the Federal Government.

To call attention to these issues, I introduced the ``silver fleece award'' in homage of Senator William Proxmire's ``golden fleece,'' but this one is made of silver, not gold, because we are headed for more austere times. In the month of February, this award was voted by Facebook users on ``waste book'' and was given to a program awarding $1 million to provide signs displaying poetry in zoos.

I rise today to announce the nominees for the month of March and to announce the winner. The second runner up was a grant related to the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, or ISTEA, and Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act, or SAFETEA-LU, which was awarded $150,000 to create special tunnels for salamanders to pass under a Vermont road. The first runner up was a video game, funded by the Federal Government, called ``WolfQuest,'' which was developed using a National Science Foundation grant of $609,160 to the Minnesota Zoo.

However, the March winner of the ``silver fleece award,'' with a 63-percent vote, is a grant of $460,000 funding a study on why people lie on text messages, instant messaging services, social networking Web sites, and other modern communication systems. Yes, we spent over $460,000 of hard-earned taxpayer dollars to tell you why people lie when they are communicating electronically.

There are new nominees for the April ``silver fleece award.'' This month's nominees were put forward by a leader on the issues of fighting pork and government waste in the House, Congressman Jeff Flake of Arizona. He nominated $450,000 in grants from the State Department for art shows in Venice, Italy, $130,276 in National Health Foundation funds to sponsor the creation and distribution of a cookbook, and $328,835 spent on an Air Force photo op in New York City.

We invite your votes and your feedback on ``wastebook on Facebook'' to decide what next month's ``silver fleece award'' winner will be.

The sad thing in all of this is that the only current loser is the American people.

(Senate - April 12, 2011)

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