Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Boston (rhymes with Tea) Party

Now that Tax Day has come and gone, enough time has passed to allow an objective view of our government’s revenue-collecting process. And tempers have cooled sufficiently so I won’t be accused of starting another tax payers’ uprising.

Not only do we get large chunks of money taken out of our checks, but the government goes to a lot of trouble of making sure you know how much they’re taking – they require your employer to print it right there on your pay stub. Adding insult to injury, you’re forced to “settle up” at the end of the year. It’s the government’s way of telling you how valuable you were to the American economy that particular year.

Before April 15, you gather up your W2 – although, you’re not quite sure whatever happened to the W1 – along with the other necessary documents (mortgage interest, business receipts, an IOU from your cousin Wilbur, etc.). You then trudge off to an accountant so you can have even more money taken away from you. After meeting with the accountant you’re told one of two things: you owe MORE or you paid TOO MUCH. The latter is always the preferred option, but that’s not the point. We’re forced to wait all year for the government to get back to us and let us know how valuable we were to them.

What are we smoking? How many of us would go to work for a company and freely accept the possibility that at the end of the year our boss could come to us and say, “You know, I think your work was a shade over mediocre. You need to write me a check for $11,769.52.”

That’s what’s happening with the government. One would think that our ever-changing tax burden is the direct result of our local and state representatives working hard on our behalf to “make a difference.” Ha ha ha! Now that’s funny.

Take the Big Dig in Boston as an example. This project started out as a tunnel to divert traffic beneath the city and remove the elevated roadways. After all was said and done, the Big Dig came in five years late and billions over budget. Yes, billions! Do you think the contractors ate that? Ha ha ha. That’s funny, too.

We blithely go throughout our days believing that our taxes are going to pay for schools, roads, the occasional geothermal energy plant, and so forth. And this would be fine if our politicians were professional contractors and project managers who understood what it meant to stick to a budget and keep their word. But what’s the number one profession of our politicians? Attorney. I have no qualms with men and women of the bar, but the last I checked, law school curriculum doesn’t include a single course on, say, managing multi-lingual construction crews.

Looking back on when I met with my accountant to prepare our 2005 taxes, the term “one hundred monkeys with typewriters” kept coming to mind. (I believe I may be using that out of context, but it seems to fit.) Despite Hollywood’s depictions of cute and cuddly monkeys, they really are vile creatures for the most part. I remember watching a monkey at the Bronx Zoo standing above another monkey in a tree and peeing on the one below. He had a knowing smirk on his face while doing this. I often get the same all-over icky feeling when a politician makes campaign promises. That being said, the point is clear: neither monkeys nor politicians should be allowed to write the tax code.

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