Um, we pay HOW much?

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I know it’s a bit early, but we’ve got to talk about this. Before we know it, we’ll be clenching our fists and extending our middle fingers toward Washington, DC because of it. And, since next year is an election year—a presidential one, to boot—some of the political rhetoric is bound to mention it.

 

            No, it’s not the Iraq war. It’s not terrorism, either. You’re probably thinking that I’m referring to the millions of people without adequate health care or the means to obtain health insurance. Wrong, again! It’s far worse than this.

 

            There’s a book in our Nation’s capital. It’s a long one, too. Yes, it’s even longer than the ones Bill Clinton writes. In fact, it’s six times longer than one of the most popular books ever written: “War and Peace.”

 

            I’m talking about the tax code. Its current edition is 20,000 pages (about 8-million words). Keep in mind, also, that this is AFTER Reagan’s 1986 coup of income tax code simplification.

 

            Since then, Congress has added over 14,000 additional clauses to it—each of which is every bit as complicated as all of the previous ones.

 

            How complicated it is? George Will researched it. He discovered that Americans spend around 6.4 billion people-hours, along with an estimated $265 billion, just trying to comply with the code and stay out of jail.

 

            So, each election year—more so in a presidential one—Congress turns up the windbag dials on their bullshit disseminator devices and promises to simplify the tax code.

 

            In his 2004 address to the Republican convention, George Bush promised, FAITHFULLY, to do this very thing.

 

            Of course, we are talking about a man who, by his own admission, does not read books and stuff. Again, by his own admission, he doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking too deeply about most things, either.

 

            There are two main hindrances to meaningful tax code simplification. The second is dependent on the strength of our collective desire to perpetuate the first one.

 

            First, Americans who earn enough to pay taxes ALL claim to want tax code simplification. I say this with tongue in cheek because…

 

            They are also in favor of tax breaks that benefit THEM, as individuals. If the tax breaks include some complexity, so be it.

 

            So, on the one hand, they want simplification, but not too much, especially if it eliminates personal benefit. See any inconsistencies here?

 

            You should because, technically, this sort of logic constitutes a psychological conflict between simultaneously held beliefs and attitudes. Shrinks call it cognitive dissonance.

 

            The second hindrance comes from K Street. For the uninitiated, K Street is headquarters to Washington lobbyists. They work on behalf of their paying clients, none of which gives a flying damn about the average American.

 

            Congress, undoubtedly, has to consider reform soon. The 2001 tax cuts will expire in 2011. The problem is that each time they “simplify” the system; fewer people understand it, including the IRS.

 

            The favorite expression among Conservatives is “tax cut.” They inevitably claim that they (tax cuts) curb government spending. To some extent, way back during the Goldwater days, this was true.

 

            It’s a big, fat crock today, though. Both Conservatives AND Liberals spend with equal tenaciousness. The present administration is a prime example.

 

            Even without the war, the Bush Administration has increased the size of government as much as, if not more, than many of past Liberal ones.

 

            As it applies to tax rates today, the law should permit us citizens to shoot anyone who says that tax cuts curb government spending.

 

            Conversely, Liberals LOVE the word “fair.” They’re constantly trying to make things “fair” for everyone, especially the “little” people. And, I’m not talking about children, either. They can’t vote!

 

            Contrary to what many Liberals tell us, redistribution of wealth is alive and well. Accordingly, tax increases are their tried and true means to accomplish it.

 

            They seem oblivious to the fact that it, more than most things, hinders the creation of the very wealth they seek to redistribute. It’s also a prime factor in the perpetuation of tax code complexity.

 

            William F. Buckley said it best, and I agree with him wholeheartedly. “We should electrocute the everyone who uses the word ‘fair’ in the same sentence with income taxes.”

 

            Current tax brackets (10, 15, 25, 28, 33, or 35-percent), comprise the tip of the income tax iceberg. I guarantee you that we’re paying a much higher rate than this.

 

            The math is simple; all it takes is a literate-level ability to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. There’s absolutely no need for a mastery of differential calculus.

 

            Do you have cable TV? Have a cell phone? Put gas in your car? Do you lease anything at all? Smoke? Heat your home in the winter? The full list is much longer.

 

            If you do any of these, and many people do, you’re paying regulatory fees—slicko secret code for taxes—on every one of them.

 

            In many states, the simple act of purchasing something—not including necessities—earns you the honor of paying a state imposed sales tax and, sometimes, a state income tax to boot!

 

            Even if lower incomes exempt you from paying any federal income taxes, you’re STILL paying taxes. Just add up the amount of these hidden taxes… I mean regulatory fees, and you’ll be stunned at the result.

 

            For even the low-income folks, the rate is higher than the advertised 10% bracket. And, in the case of higher incomes, it’s often as high as 55% of our total incomes—sometimes, even higher.

 

            If that “average” American, (the same one the politicians are so fond of referring to) ever wises up, maybe there will be some meaningful tax reform. This will be great.

 

            If they happen to accomplish it by tossing 99% of the bums out of the United States Congress, as well as the several States’ General Assemblies, it’ll be FANTASTIC.

 

            I’m not going to count it, though. If I were any of you readers, I would not hold my hand on my butt waiting for it to happen, either. You’ll look awfully silly with a hand growing out of THERE!

 

            See you all next week. I’ve got to pay my cable TV bill, put gas in my car, and… oh, crap, my cell phone’s ringing.

 

Joseph Walther is a freelance writer and publisher of The True Facts. Copyright laws apply to all material on this site. Send your comments. Just click here.

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