By now you probably should have mailed off those forms or pushed the send button on that computer program—it's April 15, tax day—though I'm sure there are plenty who will be making that 11:45 p.m. drive to the post office tonight. I've joked in the past that my tax money only goes to science (someone actually believed me once and asked how she too could direct her tax dollars to only those programs she liked), but this year I wondered how much of my tax money really did go towards science.
Since I did not want to slog my way through federal budgets and appropriations, I took a shortcut and consulted a very nice interactive graphic from the New York Times. In Fiscal Year 2010, the federal government will spend a total of $3.60 trillion. If I paid $100 in taxes and it got divided proportionally among all programs, where would it go?
Well, about $20 would go to social security and $13 to medicare. Another $20 for national defense. And $5 for interest on the national debt.
Science is a bit difficult to figure out as it's not a separate category. And to make matters worse, there are government agencies—like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey—that perform scientific research but don't break those dollars out, at least in this graphic. But adding up all the various science and research programs and agencies, I come up with about $72 billion spent on science in FY2010, and that's probably on the generous side of things. So how much of my $100 goes to pay for that science? Just $2.