P.J. O’Rourke: Bad news… Your tax bill is double what you think it is

From P.J. O’Rourke in Stansberry Digest:

Paying taxes makes us – well, it makes me – need a drink.

April 15 gives us plenty of reasons to drown our sorrows.

When we pay taxes, we know we’re funding waste, fraud, and abuse.

There’s so much waste in our government that Washington is like a sewage system running in reverse. We’re paying to pump crap into the White House, Capitol, and Supreme Court.

Government fraud is pervasive. We might as well take the Form 1040 “Amount You Owe” and give the money to some guy who sent us a spam e-mail from Nigeria.

And government abuse of power and privilege is severe enough that if our federal, state, and local political leaders were our parents, all 319 million of us Americans would be in a foster home. (Maybe the Cayman Islands will take us in.)

Then there’s the tax code. The U.S. federal tax code is 74,608 pages long. That’s more than two times the length of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. It would take more time to figure out the U.S. tax code than it would take to learn everything there is to know… twice.

And the tax rate is exorbitant. Most of us – if we’re working hard, minding our own business, and keeping America strong and prosperous – are being taxed at a rate of at least 33%.

One-third of our income! Is the government doing one-third of our job? Is the government doing one-third of our household chores? Is the government doing one-third of anything for us?

If our spouse is feeling romantic and we’re tired, does the government come over and take care of the foreplay?

(Well, maybe, if Bill Clinton gets back into the White House…)

No, the government is not doing one-third of our duties and work. It’s the other way around. We pay the government a fortune in taxes. Then, practically everything the government is supposed to do for us, we have to do over again at our own expense.

What’s really infuriating about paying taxes is how we end up paying double for what we’re told our tax dollars are buying us.

Start with welfare. Our taxes pay for all sorts of federal, state, and local welfare programs to provide for people who are unable to provide for themselves. But somehow, those people wind up homeless and begging on the street or lined up at our private charities and food banks, where we have to provide for them again.

And no amount of taxpaying seems to let us off the hook for our bum of a brother-in-law, flopped jobless on the couch watching Cartoon Network on the flat-screen TV we paid for…

Or our 27-year-old kid, who’s still living in our basement because when he went to college (a college supported by huge tax-money grants, but for which we were still expected to pay full tuition), he majored in “holistic dance therapy.”

Speaking of schools, our taxes pay for Alger Hiss Public High School – conveniently right down the street, inconveniently full of heroin and 9 mm handguns. So we also pay tuition at Friar Torquemada Parochial High.

The most important function of government is to protect our persons and property. That’s what the police department is for. We pay taxes for the police. And we still pay for burglar alarms, private security patrols, and guard dogs.

(Such as my family’s guard dog, Pinky-Wink. For the information of any prospective burglars, Pinky-Wink isn’t really a shih tzu. He’s… um… a Rhodesian ridgeback, weighing 100… make that 150 pounds. Uh, the children named him. Stop yapping, Pinky-Wink.)

With government, if we don’t pay double with money, we pay double in time and effort.

But usually it’s money. When we pay a hospital bill, we’re really paying two hospital bills. We pay one bill because we have a job and/or private insurance and can pay for our care. Then we pay another bill, which is tacked on to the first, to cover the medical expenses of someone who doesn’t have a job and/or private insurance and can’t pay the hospital. Our tennis elbow underwrites the Alger Hiss Public High School student’s 9 mm handgun wound.

And never is paying double as doubly troubling as it is in the matter of retirement. We have to pay into Social Security… and our IRA… and our Keogh Plan… and put some money in our savings account, too.

We have to pay Medicare tax… and buy Medicare supplemental insurance… and contribute to a health-savings account… and make doctor and hospital bill co-payments.

But the funding for Social Security and Medicare is so financially shaky that we cannot be certain those programs will exist by the time we’re eligible for them, even if we’re 64 ½.

Would you like to know what taxpayers are getting out of this deal? How do you and I benefit from this twinning, this two-ing, this duality? Damned if I can figure it out.

Bartender, make that a double.


P.J. O’Rourke

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