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What America Spends Per Citizen Per Year

Scott Santens
Scott Santens
3 min read

(This is an excerpt from my piece titled "How We Can Transform America’s Broken Economic System to Work for EVERYONE". You can read it in full on Medium. Per citizen calculations are based on 92.8% of the US population being legal citizens.)

The following is a short list of our shared expenditures as a society. On the left is the total cost and on the right is the cost per American citizen.

We spend $2.7 trillion for health care — $9,090 per citizen per year

We spend over $1.4 trillion on crime — $4,713 per citizen per year

We spend $1.3 trillion on Social Security — $4,376 per citizen per year

We spend $1.2 trillion on education — $4,040 per citizen per year

We spend $840 billion on our military — $2,828 per citizen per year

We spend $544 billion on the “empty labor” of workers not actually working while at work — $1,831 per citizen per year

We spend $500 billion on welfare — $1,683 per citizen per year

We’ve spent $260 billion each year since 2001 to wage a “War on Terror” in a way that has increased terrorism — $875 per citizen per year

We spend $200 billion on work presenteeism — $673 per citizen per year

We waste $180 billion on unpurchased food — $606 per citizen per year

We lose $160 billion by not using our vacation days — $539 per citizen per year

We spend $110 billion on federal corporate subsidies — $370 per citizen per year

We spend $108 billion on the cost of hunger — $364 per citizen per year

We spend at least $100 billion on a patent system that decreases innovation — $337 per citizen per year

We spend $100 billion buying illegal drugs — $337 per citizen per year

We spend $51 billion fighting our buying illegal drugs — $172 per citizen per year

We spend $92 billion on gambling — $310 per citizen per year

We lose $90 billion commuting to and from work — $303 per citizen per year

We spend $70 billion on the mortgage interest deduction — $236 per citizen per year

We lose $70 billion by not legalizing and taxing marijuana like we do alcohol — $236 per citizen per year

We are spending $1.5 trillion over 30 years for the F-35 — $168 per citizen per year

We actually subtract $53 billion from the economy by using coal power — $178 per citizen per year

We lose $40 billion to suicides (40,000 x $1 million each but the true cost is incalculable) — $135 per citizen per year

We spend $8 billion the Pentagon can’t account for — $27 per citizen per year

We spent about $4 billion in 2014 on our midterm elections — $13 per citizen per year

We spend $2.3 billion in volunteering over 100 million hours of our time at food banks to feed those of whom a majority have jobs but aren’t paid enough to not need food banks — $8 per citizen per year

Updated: 4/27/2015

We spend $40-50 billion on financial fraud — $151 avg per citizen per year

We lose $203 billion on occupational licensing restrictions — $683 per citizen per year

We gave away $130 billion in natural resources to a foreign mining company in 2014 — $438 per citizen

We spend $229 billion on the costs of gun violence — $770 per citizen per year

We spend $71 to $277 billion on the costs of air pollution — $586 avg per citizen per year

We spend over $100 billion on state and federal disaster relief payouts — $337 per citizen per year

We spend $80 billion on state, county, and city subsidies to corporations — $269 per citizen per year

We give $83 billion in interest rate subsidies to the largest banks — $269 per citizen per year

We spend $270 billion more than we need to on the cost of medications — $909 per citizen per year

We give $181 billion to all businesses in the form of special exemptions and exclusions, credits, deductions, deferrals, and preferential tax rates — $609 per citizen per year

We lose $142 billion to corporate tax havens — $478 per citizen per year

We lose $885 billion in lost GDP (5%) due to not paying women the same as men — $2,979 per citizen per year

As a society, we are now spending or throwing away about $11.9 trillion dollars or $40,000 per citizen every year

There exists overlap between some expenditures, but the above also represents only a partial list of all expenditures.

This is what we're seemingly entirely okay right now spending or wasting our money on. Somehow, we just don't have a problem with $40,000 per citizen every year.

To understand how we can reduce these expenditures and losses by more than $12,000 per citizen by spending an additional $12,000 per citizen, next read "How We Can Transform America’s Broken Economic System to Work for EVERYONE"


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Unconditional basic income (UBI) advocate with a crowdfunded basic income; Author of Let There Be Money; Senior Advisor to Humanity Forward; BasicIncomeToday.com editor; Fund for Humanity board member