Pay your Taxes?
It’s April 15th: taxday: did you pay?
I paid my 2012 taxes today, filling out the complicated forms with my own savvy & judgment, adding up receipts & garnering information from my online bank accounts. I have always done my own taxes, feeling that, as a U.S. citizen, I have not only the duty, but the right, to paymy taxes. In fact, it was part of my school curriculum back in the ’70s; we had a Citizenship class in ninthgrade & learned about filing taxes, how to keep track of stocks & bonds & how to vote. Haven’t heard of a citizenship, or civics, class in schools in recent years: maybe that’s why most people pay someone else to prepare their taxes for them? Or maybe it’s because they are so dang complicated, with more special detailed changes each & every year. Do you have a farm, know any ministers or own property you don’t live in? More complications. If you do your own taxes, I’m sure it has occurred to you, as it has to me, that we desperately need to simplify. As Henry David Thoreau, an old-time American once said, “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.” As gurus have suggested to our meditating sisters & brothers for years now, SIMPLIFY, is a code word for living a happier life in this complex age & simplify is what the tax code needs in order to keep up. Personally I think the whole thing should be thrown out: baby, bathwater & all, composted deep to be reborn into some manageable form. Maybe just a straight on percentage, no exemptions or deductions, no special loopholes for corporations regardless of how friggin’ important they think they are or where they pretend to do business to get out of paying their taxes, based only on profits mind you, not on their gross capital! Even President Obama agrees, “In fact, the best thing we could do on taxes for all Americans is to simplify the individual tax code. This will be a tough job, but members of both parties have expressed an interest in doing this, and I am prepared to join them.” Me too!
I don’t mind the fact of taxes because I recognize that the support so much of the infrastructure of our society: I like good roads & safe bridges,
as well as safe streets & schools, high educational standards & support of the arts. I know it takes money to pay for those well-used institutions & taxes is the primary way our government supports itself…. in fact, the way our government pays itself. In the 70’s when I took my Citizenship class, our Congress people were making $42,000 per year, not including their health or retirement benefits. For 2013, they will earn $174,000, for rank & file membership, $20,000 or so more for a speaker role. In that same interim, my annual earnings have gone up as well, since baby sitting didn’t earn me enough to have to file an income tax return, but shortly after that, as a nurse’s aide on minimum wage, I did. However, not having a high ranking anything kind of job, I still earn less than the Congress did in the ’70s… & even so, I help pay them their salary, as well as their health care, which I don’t have either!
It is indeed my choice to live a simpler life than if I were a congress person or working for a corporate entity that expects 40 or more of my waking hours each week & repays me accordingly. Admittedly, I could find a way to make more money, &, presumably, pay more tax with it. Since my taxes go primarily to military spending, however, I find I don’t really want to pay more taxes. I don’t feel I have been asked where I would like my tax money to go: perhaps if there were little boxes like the ones you check for charitable contributions? I could check THE ARTS or EDUCATION & uncheck THE MILITARY & then maybe I’d want to have more money to actually pay in taxes!
I recently listened to Rachel Maddow’s 2012 book, DRIFT, which is subtitled “the unmooring of american military power” (she read it herself with her usual humorous intonation) stimulating my thought processes toward questioning our current standing military belief system. The idea of our founding fathers, that we as a country not keep a standing military but instead utilize citizen soldiers, when the need arose, came from having a vision of us as a primarily peaceful nation. Once you got an army, you got to use ’em, right?
Can’t have them standing around bored all day for those ‘just in case’ moments! The point that stuck with me, however, had to do with how we as citizens experience the war or battle or whatever we’ve got our military involved in…. we, as citizen soldiers, are fighting the war, away from our families & businesses, being affected by every choice our government makes to keep us at war. The same could be said of doing your own taxes: if you actually go through line by line & fill in what you have done, or haven’t, to deserve to pay more tax or less, youtoo will be horrified by the complexity & loopholes, by the myriad addendums & atrophied anachronism of tax forms. I don’t do them online because then you don’t even get to see the other spaces not filled or the reasoning that went into them. As it is, I spread out all the booklets & forms & go back & forth from one to another for, as they are all connected the effect of any one line, effects the entire tax event! I think if we all go back to filling out our own tax forms, really trying to read & understand the legalese that peppers the paragraphs with pontification, we would all demand a tax revision, simplification & standardization. And if we all fought the wars that need fighting rather than a fewer than 1% of our population, the debate over war might become much more personal to each & all of us.
Today, I wrote a post card, as suggested by U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group), to Bank of America in the Cayman Islands. It seems they have a postal box in order that they claim doing business there to avoid paying U.S. corporate income tax to the tune of $4.5 billion. The post card only cost $1.05 to mail & the idea is that by filling up their offshore mail box, we are showing them we know what they are hiding, to wit, that they don’t have an office, they have a postal box & as such should pay their taxes, which, could cover a big chunk of that infamous federal deficit that we are in for starting two wars while lowering taxes, a previously unheard of governmental decision. Taxes as a way of life began back in jolly olde when rulers needed extra money to fight a war, sometimes against their own brother or cousin to protect their rights of rulership. Wars are expensive & although they are good for some businesses, such as those arming & supplying soldiers, they are not good for society, taking husbands from wives, mothers from children & children from parents. We support our soldiers, you can tell by all the ads on television saying it is so, but do we really? With about 1% of our population in active military participation, we are under represented in the military. Where are the citizen soldiers who require our population to feel the effects of the war? If our downtown businesses closed & more mothers were involved, you would have more uprising against the war, any war, unless the people, yes, the people of WE THE PEOPLE, felt, knew & believed it was an important war to be fought. No war we have been involved with since WWII has had the kind of popular support that war enjoyed. To use the word enjoyed next to the word war seems antithetical, but in terms of support, that was the war to end all wars…. too bad it didn’t.
There are many things our country is doing that I disagree with: the XL Keystone pipeline is a good example, or the shipments of coal from Wyoming to the Pacific coast to be shipped to China rather than relieving our own energy burden, or the fact that we can’t even seem to do the logical thing & get GMOs labeled so we know when we are buying them in our “free market economy.” Yet, when I think of these choices I see they are based on something darker & dirtier than those choices alone… there are bigger, more basic problems afoot including population control & campaign contributions. The fact that a corporation can pour huge amounts of money into a campaign that threatens our safety while not having the responsibility to act for social benefit since the only thing they exist for is shareholder dollars, boggles my mind. The fact that corporations & certain wealthy individuals control our elections by buying all the airtime & getting the best “mad-men” to institute the best propaganda in our consumer driven society, means we are like lemmings running toward the edge of that proverbial cliff: that cliff is at hand & we are going to hell in a hand basket unless we change some of the ways we run our businesses as usual.
We have instituted a new health care plan which no one likes. The folks that fought for universal health care don’t like it because it is burdensome & doesn’t go far enough. The folks who fought against socialized medicine don’t like it because it smacks of bringing us too close to communism (oh fear of fears for those from the fifties). And noone seems to know how it will actually affect health care or cost because it is so complicated. We already have medicare & medicaid & everyone knows they don’t pay what they should for the services they cover so any doctor with any sense doesn’t accept them anyway making it harder for “everyman” to get good health care. I don’t have health care coverage & at this moment, I don’t want it, because I don’t want the insurance company making decisions for me about the kind of care I receive. I want to choose my health care providers & options & don’t want insurance companies doing it for me. So I actually pay my providers & in most cases pay full price, something medicare & -caid never ever do.
We have been raised on the idiom, or is it an axiom?, that America, the U.S. of A., is the land of the free & the home of the brave & yet most of our institutions have become fear-based, airport security one of the most farcical examples. And yet, as Tom Robbins so succinctly pointed out in FIERCE INVALIDS HOME FROM HOT CLIMATES, in 2000, before TSA & Homeland Security took over the reins, our land of the free is more an idea than a reality since the reality is “video surveillance in public places, police microphones on neighborhood street corners, sniffer dogs in airports, blue codes, urine testing, DNA data banks, Internet censorship, helmet laws, tobacco laws, seat belt laws, liquor laws, persecution for joking, prosecution for flirting, litigation over everything under the sun, &, the telling statistic that in the U.S., 645 out of every 100,000 citizens were locked up in prisons, as opposed to an average of 80 per 100,000 citizens in the rest of the world.” Sounds like we have become more like the home of the fearful & land of the watched over & incarcerated!
There is a time for keeping & fixing & a time for throwing out & starting again. I think we have reached the latter time. We need a whole new foundation in this country that gets back to the basics as it was designed. We have a Constitution & Bill of Rights
that pretty well state the case. We need to get back to some fundamental rights & privileges of being a United States citizen & if it means going into war when there is need or paying taxes to support our amazing infrastructure of roads, bridges, hospitals & housing, we need to get to it. We don’t need subsidized GMO corn to make high-fructose corn syrup, one of the worst ingredients to be introduced into our food market EVER: “OUR TAX DOLLARS HELP FUEL OBESITY EPIDEMIC—Since 1995, $18 billion has been given away in subsidies to Big Agribusinesses, this money gets used to produce common junk food ingredients, like high-fructose corn syrup. These giveaways are all the more absurd at a time when one-in-three kids is overweight or obese.” (USPIRG) We don’t need to subsidize factory farms, or hydraulic fracturing to feed & clothe our millions. What we need is good birth control, innovation in energy technologies & support of the family farm, preferably organic &/or sustainable in its origins & intentions. We need a simplified tax code & congress people elected by WE THE PEOPLE, not they the corporate entity! We need to consider our actions toward our beautiful & amazing country in the light of the next seven generations, protecting our heritage of wilderness & water for those who carry our legacy into the future.