The New York Times

April 13, 1988,

HEADLINE: Your Tax Dollars At Work And Play

BYLINE: By James Bovard; James Bovard is an analyst for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a public-policy organization.


BODY: Congratulations. You probably are about to make your largest ''purchases'' of the year. According to the Tax Foundation, a private research organization, the median family of four paid $4,722 in Federal taxes last year.

So when you sign the check to the Internal Revenue Service before midnight Friday, your share of Federal revenues will allow Uncle Sam to subsidize one of the following by an amount roughly equal to $4,722.

* One advertisement by the United States Postal Service praising itself for providing the best mail service in the world.

* Payment to one farmer to forego planting 38 acres of corn or 48 acres of wheat for one growing season.

* Twenty minutes of air time during which your local public television station beseeches its viewers for contributions.

* The cost of a new curtain for the Secretary of Commerce's office.

* A 4 percent share in a loan from the Small Business Administration that was arranged by a Congressman for a bankrupt friend who wanted to open a video store.

* Seven weeks of the salary of one United States Customs official who is assigned to keep low-priced, high-quality foreign television sets from entering the United States.

* Up to three month's pension for a Navy captain who retired at the age of 42 after 20 years of desk duty.

* Three meetings of a committee of Agriculture Department bureaucrats to draft a decree on the permissible market size of nectarines.

* One weekend's expenses in Jamaica for a Congressman to attend an hour-long lecture on the problem of marijuana production in the third world.

* Drug tests for 524 Federal employees.

* Fifty ornate china place settings for the World Bank's dining room.

* Some 215 audits of taxpayer returns conducted by the Internal Revenue Service.

* Postage for 21,472 ''informational'' newsletters from Congressmen that were mailed two weeks before elections.

* Two hundred free tickets for Congressional staff members to attend an opera at the Kennedy Center in Washington.

* Some 827 personal long-distance telephone calls made by Federal employees.

* Selling 6,000 bushels of wheat to the Soviet Union at prices below production cost.

* The cost for the Environmental Protection Agency to move two tons of contaminated dirt from New Jersey to Pennsylvania.

* Three months' salary for a part-time elevator operator who works in automatic elevators on Capitol Hill.

* Matching funds for one Presidential campaign to pay for 8,000 bumper stickers or 25,000 buttons.

* Constructing 50 feet of a new two-lane highway in the Idaho outback, where nobody lives or visits.

* The cost of 94 empty seats on a Federal Government-owned Amtrak train traveling 500 miles from one city to another within Montana.

* A three-day rental of a wrecking crane used to raze a dilapidated public housing tenement in New Jersey.

* An Urban Development Action Grant used to put in a marble bathroom in a new Hilton hotel.

* Three hammers, four bolts or half of a mechanical coffeemaker for the Pentagon.

Why worry about the future when, as these examples of typical expenditures show, the Government is carefully safeguarding America's prosperity?

Citizens can sleep well knowing that, however they might have chosen to spend their own money, politicians have found a better way.

GRAPHIC: Drawing