Cartoons copyright © 1951, 1954, 2012 The New Yorker
As I write this, just before midnight, Monday, April 16, 2012, we're going into the final day, the deadline for 2011 taxes. If you're an American you already know that and don't need me to tell you.
If you're a Republican member of Congress, then at this moment you are trying to kill a bill that would create a 30% tax on people earning over one million dollars a year. The deck is stacked in favor of the rich and against working folks and retirees. We pay more than our share. I feel abused because I just paid thousands of dollars in taxes on last year's income, and I didn't earn that much. My tax bill was disproportionate to my income.
Why? Well, it's because of the way the tax code works. If you have a mortgage, have young children in daycare, have investments, or you lost money gambling...oh lordy, the list goes on and on and on and on...if you have deductions, is what I'm saying, then you get to pay less taxes. That's all well and good, except for those of us who don't have deductions. About the only thing Sally and I have, since we own our house, our cars, and have no bills but a monthly payment to Best Buy for Sally's new laptop, is Sally's pet sitting business. She runs it out of our home and last year it didn't do very well. Her client list dropped from attrition, her pet sitting jobs slowed, but she didn't really miss it. She still had her part-time job working for the school district, in addition to our state retirement and Social Security. Her business lost money, and our taxman was able to save us some money there. But in February her school district job ended. The paychecks stopped coming in. We have paid the piper this year for income earned last year. We are punished for not having debt.
I'm telling you all this because even though I feel abused I paid. When my taxman came to my house Friday night with the forms I wrote the checks and he went on his way to the Post Office to mail them. I did it because I didn't dare not do it—I've seen what happens to people who think they don’t have to pay taxes—but as a citizen I obey the law, and if the law says I owe taxes I pay them. I don’t have to like it. Every country has tax laws. It's a part of civilization we haven't figured how to live without. Somebody has to pay the bills. I was on the other end for over thirty years, earning my living, as Sally did, working for the school district, our salaries paid by taxpayers. But what goes around, comes around. We paid taxes out of that income the taxpayers paid us.
The rich don't think like us. I suppose they think they're doing us all a favor by letting us pay the bills for the infrastructure of our society, while they do their jobs collecting wealth, and with the help of friends in Congress, reap much more than they sow.
What I don't understand is why my fellow citizens, especially those in my financial bracket, think that's all fine and dandy. I imagine some of it is that they would like to be in the place of those millionaires, and by not complaining about the rich taking unfair advantage of tax codes, that will work to their advantage. It's something I think of as the myth of Ronald Reagan. He had those "voodoo economics" (what George H.W. Bush called Reagan's economic plan while he was running against him for the nomination in 1980), which claimed the more the rich had, the more the middle and lower classes would have. The money would “trickle down.” Oh, something trickled down, all right, but it wasn't money. The rich kept their money, and what trickled down to us in those lower brackets was a greater share of the tax burden.
I'm not asking to be relieved of my responsibility for paying taxes, I'd just like someone else to help me out by paying what's fair. So if the 1% can't get a new Ferrari or Lamborghini because their free ride provided by Congress is over and they are suddenly paying more in taxes, they should consider the ten years they had to collect their money in the big piles in which it is sitting in their banks, investment accounts or portfolios. They might have to wait a year to get their new toy, or what the hell, put in on their credit card like the rest of us.