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The Time Tax

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The Time Tax

Why is so much American bureaucracy left to average citizens?

The Atlantic,

5 min read
3 take-aways
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What's inside?

Americans are increasingly carrying the burden of government bureaucracy.

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Journalist Annie Lowrey concludes that Americans are essentially paying a “time tax” when they must deal with the tedious, complicated demands of the bureaucracy that surrounds taxes, Social Security, health care, unemployment insurance, and more. In thoroughly examining the disarray and inefficiency clogging an important social and financial infrastructure, she offers a fresh perspective on a frustrating reality. Anyone concerned with bureaucratic sclerosis and its effects on American life will find this an illuminating essay.


Americans are responsible for navigating the bureaucracy of government programs. 

Lawmakers design support programs to assist Americans in their daily lives. But those in need are overwhelmed with the forms, emails, phone calls and in-person interviews required to supply eligibility documentation. People become locked in administrative mazes and bureaucratic strangleholds, and wasted effort, lost productivity and frustration add to their distress.

Sometimes the process is made intentionally difficult to discourage applicants, as was the case for unemployment...

About the Author

Annie Lowrey is a staff writer on economic policy at The Atlantic.

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