Columns 2009

Happy Tax Day

Ah, April 15. Tax day. The day all good Americans get to show their appreciation to their government for all it does for them. Smile as you mail that return. In fact, use little smiley faces on all punctuations that call for a dot on your check. 

This year, perhaps more than most, ordinary Americans have cause to give pause as they mail their return in and wonder which executive at which failed financial institution will be getting that money in their bonus to encourage them to keep up the good work.  Yep, it’s enough to make paying taxes an absolute joy to know that somewhere out there in the vast beyond – in a world we can never afford – an investment banker is able to keep paying his exclusive country club dues because you and I are good Americans.

Prior to our recent little banking dust up , I had grown somewhat tired of politicians who ran on a platform that seemed to consist of four words, “I will cut taxes.” I was tired of hearing those words used in every election cycle I can remember without ever seeing one politician who successfully followed through.

Seems once they got elected to office, one of two things would happen. One, we’d find that what they meant by cutting taxes was that their rich friends in high places would have their tax burden lessened so it wouldn’t cut into their yacht funds. You and I, on the other hand, would keep paying because someone had to. Or, two, taxes were cut but spending wasn’t so we ended up with a huge deficit that created a situation where taxes eventually had to be raised even higher to meet the needs of government. What little we’d saved in the years of tax cuts were immediately taken back by the government in one fell swoop when the reality of deficit spending hit.

There was a time when I would get angry at the mantra of tax cuts that seemed to be the dull politician’s only thought.  Since they apparently could not come up with any really good new concepts, they fell back on the one tried and true way to get elected in America – call the other guy a tax and spend liberal while you promise to roll back tax rates to pre 1900 levels.

I resented the rather stupid simplicity of that particular brand of campaigning because I felt that some things were worth paying taxes for and every citizen had an obligation to keep this republic great by doing their fair share. So when I thought my taxes were going to schools that actually graduated students literate in both the arts and sciences, I wasn’t dismayed when April 15 rolled around. I maybe wasn’t overly thrilled. No one is when asked to give up some of their hard earned money. But if it was paying for school and fire and police, if it was going to help people who had nowhere else to turn, if it was going to help create a kinder and gentler world, then I’d suck it up and pay with a (only partially forced) smile.

There were times when that smile was more forced than at others because I saw my government going off in what I felt were very bad directions and using my taxes to get there. Sometimes I just plain did not understand why my money should be supporting some of the actions the government took. And sometimes I simply did not know where so much of my money could be going.

But this year we don’t have to worry about all that. As we mail in our payments, we know exactly where our taxes are going and why. No hidden benefits to the rich happening this year. All the hiding has been abandoned. The truth is now flaunted with impunity by those who hold our purse strings.

The rich will get richer with our tax money and we will have to settle for being grateful that once we lose our jobs, we’ll no longer pay taxes because we’ll have no income to tax. It may not seem like much comfort, but in today’s financial climate, it may be the only comfort we have.