I recently took to Twitter to vent my righteous rage at the proliferation of list articles.
You know, list articles: the crutch used by many a lazy blogger who’d rather write in short, choppy, numbered sentences instead of full paragraphs, because full paragraphs necessitate the formation of full thoughts, which only come to those who write because they actually have something to say.
The worst brand of list article has to be the “things you shouldn’t say to ____ ” spiels you see pop up on your newsfeed 12 times a day. Just Google the phrase “things you shouldn’t say” and you’ll find a million such articles, informing you that there are, for instance, 10 things you shouldn’t say to a person in a wheelchair, 7 things you shouldn’t say to someone with anxiety, 16 things you shouldn’t say to a guy who can’t grow a beard, and, obviously, many different lists explaining many things you shouldn’t say to women or minorities, or especially minority women in wheelchairs who have anxiety about the fact that they can’t grow beards.
Interesting note: the bartender community has taken a special liking to the “list phrases that other people are now prohibited from uttering in my presence” craze. Search “things you shouldn’t say to bartenders” and you’ll find dozens of entries, including a Buzzfeed post (of course) that ranks 61 things you shouldn’t say to this surprisingly sensitive group of emotional snowflakes.
In other words, don’t speak to bartenders at all. They’ve had enough of human speech altogether.
Now, I begin with this lengthy setup in an attempt to confront my apparent contradiction head on. I hate list articles, but here I am with a list article. A “things you shouldn’t say” list article, no less. Does this make me a hypocrite? Perhaps, except that I fully admit to my laziness in this particular instance. I’ve written over 400 posts and only formatted them into convenient list-structure, I think, twice (including this one). I’m entitled to a pass, right?
Fine. Maybe not.
But I do feel OK telling you things you shouldn’t say, because I’m not telling you to stop saying them TO ME for my own benefit, but rather stop saying them in general, for your benefit, and for the sake of truth, justice, and the American Way.
So, in honor of Tax Day, I’ve written a list of three things you shouldn’t say as you enjoy the cheer and merriment of this joyous American holiday:
1. “I’m paying my taxes.”
“My” implies ownership. It communicates a certain level of inherent, natural responsibility toward the subject. So it makes sense for me to refer to “my bill” at Applebee’s or “my credit card debt”. They are both the result of a contractual agreement I personally entered into and accepted. Even if the spinach dip was overpriced, and even if Visa is kicking me up and down the sidewalk with interest and penalties, I still knowingly and willingly consented to assuming the financial cost in return for a good or service. I own it. It’s mine. It’s nobody else’s. In fact, it’s important for me to stipulate my Applebee’s bill from your Applebee’s bill because we entered into different agreements for different products. I’m certainly not on the hook for your bill, especially because I’m drinking ice water while you’re over there chugging margaritas like it’s Cinco de Mayo.
Your tax bill is different than your bar tab or the money you owe Netflix. You didn’t agree to this. You have absolutely no control over it.
You might say that taxes have always been like that and always will be, and you’re right. But, in modern times, with a government that spends 3.5 trillion dollars a year — making it the most expensive bureaucracy that’s existed anywhere on the planet ever in history — the gap between taxation and the ‘public good’ has never been more vast. It’s kind of hard to whisper even the faintest suggestion that our government limits itself to expenditures necessary to fulfill only its lawful and constitutional obligations, when it spends, in a single year, almost as much money as physically exists on the planet.
Did you catch that? If you wanted to outspend the government next year, you’d have to first steal every single physical dollar and coin that exists on Earth, and you still might not have enough.
And, since the government spends even what it doesn’t have, we have accrued a debt so enormous that the numbers cannot be understood by the human mind. Any notion of taxation with representation has been completely buried under this pile of debt so inconceivably massive that it could touch the moon (literally).
Politicians take your money and use it for whatever they like, and whatever they like almost always involves gaining power and influence. Again, you’ll tell me that politicians have always used taxes for this purpose, and you’re right, but they’ve never been able to steal this much, and they’ve never been so proficient in stealing it (while, in every other area, so utterly lacking in proficiency).
Your money will be taken and allocated to fund abortion clinics, and foreign governments, and entitlements, and studies to determine whether cocaine makes Japanese quail horny, or if Chinese prostitutes can be taught to drink responsibly, or how to best teach the benefits of genital washing in the third world. When you say that you owe this amount, you are saying that you are personally indebted to Planned Parenthood, and the government of Uganda, and every individual on every welfare program, and every study about lustful quail. Or else you are saying that a politician’s power to tax is absolute and unlimited, and their saying that you have this debt is enough to make that debt into some kind of existential reality.
The point is that this debt belongs to the powers that created it. They will take from you, but you do not owe it. There is no “social contract”. We are churning out generations of Americans born into a bankruptcy they did not cause, created to pay for things they did not buy, to benefit people they’ll never meet. Entire generations emerging into the world with a giant ‘IOU’ branded on their foreheads; emblazoned there because the Americans that came before them lacked the courage and discipline to stop the government gravy train in its tracks.
These are not your taxes. They will come from your pockets and out of the mouths of your children, but you do not owe them.
2. “I’m paying my taxes today.”
“Today”. You’re paying taxes “today”, you say? Well, that’s true. But the statement seems to imply that you don’t pay taxes every other day.
Oh, but you do.
You pay taxes today, but that does not make today unique.
If you’ll allow it, I would like to take you on a tour of your average day. This is what it looks like, whether we call it “Tax Day” or not:
You wake up.
You get out of bed and flip on a light. And you are taxed. You stumble into the bathroom and use the toilet. And you are taxed when you flush, and again when you turn on the shower, and again when you go to the faucet to brush your teeth (unless you’re one of those “brush my teeth in the shower” deviants). You put on clothing, which were taxed when you bought them. You slip on your taxed socks and tie your taxed shoes. You go downstairs. You use your taxed coffee machine. You pay a tax on the electricity. You grab a frozen breakfast burrito, which you paid taxes on, and stick it in the microwave, which you paid taxes on, and turned on the microwave using that taxed electricity again. You decide to check out the morning news while you enjoy your gourmet meal. Good thing you’ve got that taxed TV and that taxed digital cable. OK, quit stalling. Time to get to work. You grab your taxed cell phone and call your boss to tell him you’re running late. You paid about a dozen different taxes on that phone call. You leave your house, which is perpetually taxed, and get into your car, which was taxed. You drive down the street, burning that oh-so-taxed gasoline. Maybe you pass through a toll, maybe you’re stopped along the way and charged 128 dollars for not wearing a seatbelt. Maybe you get flashed by a red light camera. Maybe you have to park in a metered spot. Tax. Tax. Tax. Tax.
You haven’t even made it to your job yet, and the government’s fleeced you for a bucket of cash. Then you punch the clock at work and that’s where the real taxing begins.
See, in America, “the Land of the Free,” we pay taxes on everything we buy and everything we use; we pay taxes on where we live and what we eat; we pay taxes when we drive down the road or stay in the house; we pay taxes on whatever we sell, whatever we earn, and whatever we save. We pay taxes to live and we pay taxes to die. Some people live in states without a sales tax, but they still pay taxes when they buy things, because there are so many taxes and fees embedded into the price of any good or service.
Our Founding Fathers would rather wage an armed revolt against the world’s greatest superpower than pay a tax on their Snapple; we, on the other hand, would rather pay taxes on literally every conceivable facet of our existence, than be accused of “extremism” for questioning the government’s alleged absolute power to levy taxes on everything, all the time, without any discernible limitations.
My, how times have changed.
3. “I just filed my taxes and I’m getting 400 dollars from the federal government!”
Please don’t celebrate the tax return you’re “getting”.
You aren’t getting anything. That’s your money. The government took it, held onto it for a year, and now they’re returning it without interest. If some guy at work stole a hundred bucks from your wallet and then, after you tracked him down and harassed him about it, he gave you back a small portion of it, would you run through the halls jumping for joy? Would you thank him for returning your own money? Or would you smack him upside the head and tell him to give you back the rest with interest, or you’ll break his kneecaps with a tire iron?
OK maybe you wouldn’t go all Al Capone on his sorry behind (I mean, I did just catch you drinking a fruity cocktail at Applebee’s) but I think you’d respect yourself enough to not act like he just did you a favor by returning some of the cash he jacked from your wallet.
Now, imagine that your friend took your money, or even that he borrowed it, but he told you that he would not return it until you completed a stack of paperwork and submitted it to him on a deadline determined by him, the debtor? And what if he boasted that any failures on your end to check the appropriate box or dot the appropriate ‘i’ would result in him refusing to give you back your own money, and it may even mean that you have to pay him more?
That’s the withholding system in a nut shell, a system signed into law by FDR, designed to alleviate the burden of tax collecting from the shoulders of tax collectors, and place it instead on individuals and business owners. It gives the government the ability to acquire an interest-free loan from millions of American citizens. But don’t worry: it’s totally necessary. If everyone had to physically cut a check for the actual amount of ‘their’ tax debt — like we self-employed folks must do — there would be riots in the streets.
As it stands, Daddy Government simply slips into your wallet, takes a chunk of your paycheck, very nicely and painlessly, and then, a year later, gives you a smaller chunk back. Hooray! The populace goes from certain revolt to literally thanking Uncle Sam for the pleasure of having a portion of their own earning returned, sans the interest it could have accrued sitting in a savings account.
And that’s America in the year 2014.
Happy Tax Day, fellow serfs.
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UPDATE: CarolBeth Hawn on Facebook reminds me that my list of taxes you pay in the morning was woefully in complete:
You forgot to mention that the milk (taxed) you put into your coffee (taxed) had the following tax-line: Farmer (income tax) has land (property tax) on which he grazes his cows (tax on grass seed, tax on fertilizer spread by tractor, tax to buy tractor, which was also taxed in its production, tax on gas for tractor, tax on replacement tires and parts for tractor, which were also taxed in production), the cows were raised from calves produced on farm (capital gains) and visited by vet (tax on products, vet is also taxed ad nauseum) from semen purchased from an exchange (taxed), which are raised and milked in a milk shed or barn (more property tax) using equipment purchased (taxed, both on purchase and on production) and bottled (more equipment taxed on purchase and in production), sold to Meadow Gold (taxed ad nauseum), trucked to the grocery store in a refrigerated truck (taxed, taxed, taxed, gas tax), sold to store (sale is taxed, store is taxed ad nauseum) where it sits in big, taxed refrigerators, until you go to the store (gas tax, tax on vehicle) and purchase the milk (taxed) for your coffee (taxed). This is, of course, an abbreviated list. We’d need a flow chart to do it justice. The amazing thing isn’t that things cost so much, it is that they cost so LITTLE, being taxed on every level as they are!