How does the Government Cost Calculator work?

MyGovCost.org takes your education level, age, and income to create a proportional estimate of your future share of taxes and federal spending.

 What does “typical investment scenario” mean?

Adjusted for inflation and market volatility, “typical investment scenario” assumes the rate of return for the stock market since 1871. Currently this is approximately 6.09 percent.

 Where do you get your data?

The Calculator combines data from the most recent annual reports published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Congressional Budget Office. For more information on our sources, please see Methodology.

 I used the calculator and got my estimates, but what can I do with them?

MyGovCost.org is as an educational tool designed to inform citizens on how federal spending affects them directly and to make the federal budget more transparent. We encourage you to share your results with friends and to use the calculator as a point of reference when discussing federal spending. Most of all, we hope users will walk away ready to get involved and fight back! Click here to learn more about how you can help or do more with Independent Institute and MyGovCost.org.

 I’m retired or currently unemployed. What should I enter?

If you are currently retired or living on a fixed income, use the net annual payments you receive as your income. If you are currently unemployed, use your most recent net annual salary to obtain an estimate of what your liability will be when you return to the labor force. Otherwise, you may use your net fixed income payment.

 You skipped an expensive government program. Why isn’t it listed?

Our calculator does not factor in pending legislation or federal spending programs that Congress has not finalized. And although it includes the entire federal budget, it would be extremely difficult to calculate the exact cost for every major agency or program per citizen.

 How often do you update your data?

MyGovCost.org pulls data annually from federal budget expenditure reports, census data, and reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as they become available.

 How can I figure out my state and local costs?

The Calculator is designed exclusively for understanding the incidence of federal government spending. State and local governments differ dramatically in the types of spending programs in place and the size of those spending initiatives. Most states have local organizations that perform regional studies on the cost of state spending programs. You can increase awareness in these issues at a local level by sharing your results with others on social networking sites.

 Why can’t I input gender, advanced degree, or years left to work?

Since MyGovCost.org uses data provided by various government agencies, its analysis is limited to the parameters of the data used. In the case of gender, the U.S. Census does not account for gender in terms of individual income. With advanced academic degrees, Census projects vary so widely from year to year that including them would be counterproductive to accuracy. Finally, years left to work was not included due to the variety of forms this can take, including sabbaticals and early retirement.

 I input my figures and calculated it for the total and then did so for each government program; why don’t the numbers add up?

The Calculator considers all government expenditures and sources of receipts, which are not all listed as part of the available options to select. Here, in the interest of not overwhelming users with the full range of things upon which the government spends taxpayers’ money, the available choices to select were narrowed down to those that might be of special interest to a wide range of taxpayers.

 Why didn’t my comment appear in the guest book or the blog?

In order to reduce commercial spam, all comments on MyGovCost.org require the user to submit his or her email address. (Don’t worry—your email address will remain invisible to the public.) On rare occasions, should we find a user’s comments to be distasteful or off topic, we will remove this material at our discretion. More often, our server may simply be experiencing a delay in updating reader comments.

 What personal information does MyGovCost.org gather?

  • Does MyGovCost.org store the data I enter into the calculator? We do not associate inputs for age, income, and education with any personal information (such as name, IP address, or email address) received during your visit to the site. We want you to feel free to use our Government Cost Calculator for yourself, your family, and your friends without concern for your private data.
  • What does MyGovCost.org do with my email address? If you contact us using the email web form, we may send you updates for MyGovCost.org. You are always free to unsubscribe by clicking the link at the bottom of the email newsletter message, or by using the interface on the left side of any page on this website. Also, you may elect to sign up for updates about MyGovCost.org and other email updates from the Independent Institute.
  • Does MyGovCost.org share my address with other groups? No. We do not share our email lists with outside organizations. We may occasionally make our postal mailing list available to organizations that we think may interest you.
  • Does MyGovCost.org use cookies? Yes. Cookies are alphanumeric identifiers that we transfer to your computer’s hard drive through your web browser to enable our systems to recognize your browser as you move around MyGovCost.org. The Help feature on most web browsers will tell you how to prevent new cookies from being accepted, how to have the browser notify you when you receive a new cookie, or how to disable cookies altogether.
  • How secure is information about me? We work hard to protect the security of all of the information we receive from you. Any data about names and email addresses is maintained in our internal systems, which are not accessible from the web.

 I have suggestions for this site; who should I tell?

If you have a suggestion for how MyGovCost.org could improve our services or simply would like to make a recommendation for the site, please contact us here.

 Who funded this project?

MyGovCost.org has been made possible by the generous support of private donors who share our concern over the continuously growing level of federal spending. In an effort to make trillions of dollars of government debt easily understood on a personal level, these donors have joined with the Independent Institute to create this new website and multimedia tool.

 How can I help support MyGovCost.org?

If you share our concern about the federal debt and the ever-expanding reach of the government, you can make a donation to support MyGovCost.org. To learn about other programs of the Independent Institute, membership benefits, and ways to help us to promote liberty, peace, and prosperity, please visit http://www.independent.org/membership/. For any additional questions regarding donating or partnering with the Independent Institute, please call our Development Associate, Terra Strong, at 510–632–1366.

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About MyGovCost.org

The Government Cost Calculator is a unique service from The Independent Institute that enables any American to clearly understand three aspects of federal government spending.

First, the Government Cost Calculator helps you determine how much you will pay for various federal programs now and over the course of a lifetime. Second, it compares those tax payments to the forgone earnings that would have been possible if such funds were kept and invested in private, market accounts. Finally, the Government Cost Calculator enables you to see the difference between government expenditures and your tax payments, clearly illustrating the growing debt obligations you face in the future.