Posted by: Travis | April 15, 2009

A word on taxes, tea parties, and the American way.

Income tax has made more liars out of people than golf. – Will Rogers

Today, April 15, is tax day. It’s kind of anticlimactic for me because at this stage in my life doing my taxes is pretty simple and only takes about an hour, so Rachel and i did our taxes back in February. However, for many procrastinating Americans (or those with complex filings, or both), today is a tremendously stressful day full of anguish and bitterness about having to hand over money to the government that you worked really hard for. Call me young and naive, but i think paying your taxes, and not cheating on them, is the most basic of our patriotic duties. Sure, we can complain about the government being inefficient, and it’s easy to see the sum total of all the withholdings from your paycheck over the course of the year and think about what you could have done with that extra 37.5%, but lets think about what’s really going on here. The government provides services to us throughout the year, be it building and maintaining roads, educating our kids for free, helping the poor and unemployed squeak by while they try to find sound footing, or the police and fire departments, and today is the day that everyone makes sure that they contribute their fair share tp help pay for those services. Some people take advantage of those services more than others though they may pay the same, and the wealthy should pay more then the poor because they can afford it. It kills me to see flag waving, uber-patriotic Americans with 5 different ‘I support our troops’ bumper stickers suddenly cower when it comes time to put their money where their mouth is. Today is not the day to be bitter about having to pay taxes, it’s a day to celebrate this fine country that we live in.

TEA Bagger

TEA Bagger

You may have heard about the contrived ‘TEA Parties’ (that’s ‘Taxed Enough Already’, not very clever, folks) being thrown by right wingers across the country today protesting our country’s ‘outrageous’ tax rates. As you can imagine, Fox News has been covering this story all day like the revolution is coming. I don’t want to give these people the pleasure of too much attention, but i’d like to make a few points:

  1. The point of the Boston Tea Party that these guys are referring to was the idea of no taxation without representation. Americans were being unfairly taxed by England without being able to elect representatives that had a say in writing the tax code. The last time i took a government class was in high school, but at that time we got to elect representatives that wrote the tax code in the House of Representatives and the Senate. I think i would have heard about it if that whole process had changed. So the whole ‘no taxation without representation’ argument doesn’t fly in this case, unless you’re talking about residents of Washington D.C., which leans Democratic about 90-10.
  2. All this hostility is obviously being directed toward Barack Obama (name still not accepted by spell check for those keeping score at home). The problem is that Barack Obama’s tax policies have not yet been enacted, so the tax code that these folks are all up in arms about was put in place by their boy, George W. Bush. You really can’t make this stuff up.
  3. The people attending these rallies are overwhelmingly not in the top tax brackets, so when Obama’s tax plan is enacted (assuming it remains relatively unchanged from the one he described during the campaign), most of these people will see their tax rates go down, not up.
  4. Today’s tax rates are still across the board lower than they were when the man who many of these folks would tell you was the best president of all time , Ronald Reagan was in office.

A little bit of thought would have gone a long way in preventing these folks from looking so silly, but they don’t appear to have put a lot of thought into much of anything in quite a while.

On a somewhat related note, after having it sit in it’s Netflix envelope next to our DVD player for upwards 3 months, Rachel and i finally watched the super poignant Enron movie The Smartest Guys in the Room last night. The similarities between the Enron dudes and the Wall Street crew responsible for this crap we’re in right now are striking. They were so blinded by their own greed that they took on enormous risk, couldn’t see it when things started to go south, the whole thing crumbled, many peoples’ life savings went to nill, and they rejected the fact that they were at all responsible after things collapsed. Shame on us for not learning from our mistakes with the Enron guys. I’ll close with the line Dub-ya famously couldn’t remember: Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

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