And Congratulations. I know, this is usually regarded as an anti-holiday. But did you have income in 2013? Enough income to pay taxes on? Enough income to pay a lot of taxes on? As Martha Stewart says, it’s a good thing.
You’re in good company too. Warren Buffett and Oprah also had to file a return. It’s not a bad thing to be taxable. Consider the alternative. Would you really rather be living in a cardboard box and dumpster diving just to avoid the 1040?
But haven’t we been told for 30 or 40 years, by politicians who read Ayn Rand in high school and by the billionaires who fund them, that all government is worthless and infringes on our freedom and all taxes are bad? Yet you don’t see the politicians or the billionaires moving somewhere else.
Why is that? Because they aren’t bloody stupid. They have seen the taxes most other places or the lack of public services or have calculated the risk of their fortune vanishing at gunpoint or in the next coup or crash or act of God or man.
They don’t really want a new address or a revolution and they certainly have no interest in helping the average taxpayer. They just want your help in electing pliant members of congress who will cut their taxes and neglect to regulate their businesses.
Despite the crazy talk they underwrite, most of our tax money doesn’t go to boondoggles, corruption, or layabouts too lazy to inherit their own billion. According to research reported in the Wall Street Journal, not exactly a bastion of commie propaganda, if you pay $100 dollars in taxes this year, here’s how the money is divvied up.
First, the largest single expense is for defense and military benefits ($23.96) with an additional $4.02 for veterans benefits for $27.70. And almost all of that money is for military salaries or for employees of American companies that produce drones, aircraft carriers, tanks. They take their paychecks and shop for food, cars, houses, iPods.
Next are the programs for the elderly that they paid into for decades and now expect to provide for them. How unreasonable of them. You know, deadbeats like Mom and Dad who collect Social Security ($23.39), Medicare ($14.24), Federal Retirement Benefits ($2.65). That makes another $40.28 for a total so far of 68 percent of all tax dollars.
Again, it is worth recalling that the recipients of these dollars are not behaving like Scrooge McDuck and putting the money in a vault or swimming pool. Mom and Dad are pumping it right back into the economy to pay other Americans for the goods and services they consume – farmers, doctors, nurses, auto workers, plumbers, the kid at McDonalds, the maid at the Holiday Inn when they come to visit. You’d rather have them stay with you? I don’t think so.
Next come all those controversial programs intended to help people less fortunate than us, since we are paying taxes. Or to help us if something terrible should happen and we can’t pay taxes. Unemployment insurance ($2.00), Supplemental Security Income if we become disabled ($1.53), housing assistance ($1.35) and food stamps ($2.39) so we really don’t end up in that cardboard box or dining from that dumpster. A grand total of 9.27% of our taxes. Not quite a 10% tithe, but close.
And, this is getting monotonous, but this money isn’t saved or spent on the kind of trivia your kids buy – video games or Miley Cyrus music. It too is largely spent on food, nursing care, doctors, rent, electricity, water and sewer. That is, on paying other Americans who turn around and spend it.
Now we are up to about 80 percent of all your taxes accounted for and the rest is everything else. Courts and prisons, medical research and food and drug inspectors so we aren’t poisoned by what we buy, public health so we don’t die of plague, grants and aid so our kids can partially afford college. Transportation ($2.65), Education ($1.32), Agriculture (85 cents), foreign aid (97 cents).
Again all, in effect, goes to pay salaries to other Americans to do things for us. Except for that last 97 cents. And truth be told, much of that goes to “encouraging” other countries to do business with American companies or to prevent us from having to spend blood and treasure when they start doing bad things. Think of it as insurance.
Last of all is $6.41 for Interest on the National Debt. This tends to really bother people who themselves borrow money, including those billionaires whose businesses issue bonds or sell stock to raise money. This is, in effect, the nation’s mortgage payment for having borrowed money. So what do we get for that six bucks? Same as with the house. We get to keep living here.
Yes, we borrow too much and could borrow less and cut the debt. There are two ways to do that. Raise taxes to pay for what we buy. Don’t like that, do we? Or spend less. On what? Mom and Dad’s retirement and medicine? Defense? Homeland Security? Your neighbor or your kid when they lose their job? Roads, bridges, airports, the grid so we aren’t living in Haiti or Bangladesh but a competitive modern economy?
In short, when the anti-tax candidates start pitching woo, vote as if your quality of life depends on it. Because it does.
And here’s hoping you are having a happy and prosperous 2014 and will pay even more tax next April. It could be worse. A lot worse.