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I have found this website very helpful in the past few years when researching government financial info: http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/total_spending_chart

I reached out to the website developer/maintainer/creator, Chris Chantrill, telling him I appreciated his work on the site and asking if he needed help (seems like a 1 man operation?) - here's how he responded:

Thanks! I started the site in 2007 when "I couldn't take it any more." Since then it has just growed.

Here's how you can help. Suggest a feature.

Best wishes,


Chris' site provides unbiased commentary on the importance/relevance of certain measurements, and gives access to download data. It could use a bit of a UX/UI overhaul but it's an amazing feat for a one-man operation to track and present all these different sources of gov data.

I'll be interested to see how Balmer's site compares in functionality (and neutrality) especially given his vast resources and team of experts.

Can't believe I'm posting something positive about the Irish government but they recently launched this site which is actually pretty decent. Pity other governments don't do the same. http://whereyourmoneygoes.gov.ie

The optics are good but it's effectively useless in determining whether money is being spent wisely or not.

It only gives a very high level picture. It would need to allow one to go a whole lot deeper for people to be able to work out what is value and what isn't.

How does the office of taoiseach spend €182 million per annum, for example?

It should be possible to see exactly where the money was spent all the way down to an invoice.

The data needed to be aggregated originally, presumably, to deliver what they do publish so what we want is access to the raw stuff.

> It should be possible to see exactly where the money was spent all the way down to an invoice

With that level of visibility ("down to an invoice"), it's easy for people to take up pitch forks and begin lambasting teachers, for example, for their spending on computer software, materials for class, and so on. Perhaps a doctor's medical decisions would start being questioned left, right, and centre, yet the people doing the questioning have no medical experience or understanding of the patient's needs.

Let me put this another way: do you like being micro managed at your job? Would you like every decision you make regarding public spending, as an individual teacher, to be disputed, criticised and thrown up on Twitter by someone who, for example, doesn't agree with your purchasing of materials to teach a religious class, or a class on evolution, or perhaps a subject you don't think should be taught, like film & television?

I think having the data that's "down to an invoice" available to the state is valuable, but accessible to the public? No. I couldn't get behind that.

EDIT: "if" -> "is"; "ZERO" -> "no"

I disagree. Let me give you an example. Some years ago,the irish police had a grievance, they were paid less pay for holidays than normal working days. This was because when on holiday they were just receiving their normal salary and weren't getting certain other expenses. In other words, these expenses weren't real expenses but a form of tax-free pay. They had been introduced as an under the table pay increase during some negotiation or other, probably as a way of hoodwinking the taxpayer/other workers or circumventing some pay-cap or other. As I understand it this type of thing is/was common in the public service. There have been moves towards openness. Already lists of government payments to private contracters are published in Irish newspapers. Also lists of tax defaulters and details of their settlements are published regularly. Public servants having their salaries and expenses published is just another step further down this road. The same should apply to welfare recipients.

Being able to see who spent what, where and how is probably the greatest way to ensure tax money isn't wasted.

What's special about individuals who happen to be employed in the public sector or in receipt of welfare payments that makes it OK to intrude on their privacy in this way?

Like jumpcrisscross said. Ideally, where every euro of taxpayers' money goes should be a matter of public record.

I doubt that that's what you actually think. For example, I doubt you want me to be able to ask the government how much money was spent on impotence medication for you. There's a trade-off to be made regarding personal privacy. Why do you think that trade-off should be made against certain groups of people?

You can have transparency and privacy, they are not mutually exclusive in this case. Government spent X amount of money on Y number of prescriptions for medication Z. You can determine if there needs to be further auditing if Y exceeds the projected number of prescriptions based on prevalence of conditions.

Precisely that they are paid by the taxpayers?

Why do you think taxpayers are a group capable of deciding whether tax money is being wasted?

Aren't you the best placed to decide if your money is wasted or well spent?

> it's easy [...] lambasting teachers, for example, for their spending on computer software

And maybe it's a good thing.

> do you like being micro managed at your job?

You are conflating micromanagement with financial control.

In democratic societies, public work is done under public scrutiny. Taxpayers have constitutional rights to review budgets and complain to elected politicians.

Private citizens and companies have privacy, instead, as the "public" and "private" word suggest.

In dictatorships it's the other way around.

Constitutional rights? Doubt it.

Sorry but if the public fund it they should be able to see it, what's the point to pay blindly ?

"With that level of visibility ("down to an invoice"), it's easy for people to take up pitch forks"

I find this reasoning downright despicable. "Not publishing the data because someone might complain"? Seriously? That is the very reason it should be published, to enable constructive criticism.

I agree people might start nitpicking on minor stuff. But it seems the positive outcomes of being 100% transparent would far outweighs the negative ones.

This is a ridiculous extrapolation. The idea that public spending should not be public on the off chance that someone might be publicly critical of minor expenses seems like a pretty shallow reason to not give public spending more transparency.

Germany has something very similar, only in german though. It tracks income and expenses, as well as the actual and planned budgets for the past years: https://www.bundeshaushalt-info.de/

Very cool! Is the same also available for the spending of Bundeslaender as well as communities? Lots of taxes also go there.

Israel version:

budget breakdown mof.gov: https://public.tableau.com/profile/mof.budget#!/vizhome/_358...

Private initiative comparing to the previous year: http://www.obudget.org/

Norway has it as well (in Norwegian). http://slikbrukesskattepengene.no/

That is really nice.

I wonder how many Americans will see this & get confused when "Defence" isn't a main column (it's in "Other", <1% of GDP)

Probably very few. It's constantly advertised by both sides of the political spectrum that the US spends massive amounts on defense to act as world police.

I suppose I'll throw a shout out to www.opensecrets.org, who have an API I've used on a project in the past. You can see the top contributors to congressional campaigns and presidential. You can see down the $5 your grandmother gave to your senator's campaign, as it's all a matter of public record. It's interesting to see how businesses in your area will vote with their wallet.

The UI is actually making me feel angry, for some reason I can't put my finger on.

there's loads of different sized fonts with varying line heights, and a mix of serif and sans fonts

Could it be the front-and-center red * bolded * text? Or perhaps the logo with the clipped words?

Hehe that might be part of it, I actually feel claustrophobic reading it. A neutron star of text and links.

The font size is "wrong" for everything and completely inconsistent and all over the place. White spacing is all wrong too.

The font color is non-contrasting, because gray on blue is a brilliant idea. I'd literally fire someone if they submitted this as graphics design.

I don't want to detract from it's good points in terms of collating information, but yep this feels like the kryptonite of the designers I've known. I'm no novice at creating horrors either, it's more of a piece of art to me than something to be eradicated.

This in one some people did fro GovHack in Australia: http://theopenbudget.org

I remember I got a letter a while ago from the Australian Tax Office which showed a general break-down of all costs with histograms. The devil is in the details though.

Interesting thanks, hadn't seen it.

I delve into the Treasury Portfolio wedge and I get a sinister "Outcome 1" looking as big as our welfare budget (I think from a quick squiz this says 120 billion for welfare but I thought it was closer to 180 billion).

What's all the stuff under the Treasury portfolio?

I can't figure this out myself. I could swear that budget accounting is designed to be as unreadable and incomprehensible as humanly possible. Take a look at http://www.budget.gov.au/2016-17/content/bp4/html/05_art-16.... and scroll right to the bottom. Taken at face value, this seems to suggest total actual appropriations just for the Treasury portfolio were $765bn in 2015-16. Given this equates to about 43% of nominal GDP in 2015, there must be something else going on here that I''m missing.

I posted a link to the story about how Office of Management and Budget under Trump is trying to clean up government but it didn't gain any traction. The link summarizes a link to the PDF from the OMB about how they are challenging every level of government.

Considering how much tax money the government takes in it is astounding to me they run such a deficit. Plus you must also account for all the taxes and spending at State, City, and Local, levels. All this money and how much is slipping through the cracks from helping people and keeping the infrastructure going

Basically it comes down to determining if their activities are non essential, if they flunk a cost benefit test, do they violate federalism, and more.

Cato summary : https://www.cato.org/blog/mulvaneys-plan-reform-government

pdf from OMB : https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/omb/me...

> Considering how much tax money the government takes in it is astounding to me they run such a deficit.

It's astounding to you that a superpower spends a lot of money? When we spend more on our military than the next n countries combined?

> if they flunk a cost benefit test

I consider myself a conservative, especially in comparison to most folks on HN, but this is nonsense. Conservatives in Florida demanded drug testing welfare recipients, even when data shows that fails a cost benefit test pretty handily.

Delighted to learn about this stunning resource. Comparing the two will be illuminating.

Since everyone's posting their country's version of this, this is one for New Zealand: http://www.wheresmytaxes.co.nz

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