Tax day is coming up, and I've been looking at my family's financial life in the calendar year 2004.
The Board members of my non-profit organization already know (pretty much) what I'm about to say, but they're only twelve people, and I think there is actually a broader point to be made.
The point is this: in 2004, I
Nevertheless in 2004, I
- was raising two young children
- had expensive car repairs
- was finishing my self-built house to the level at which one (1) insurance provider would, after my having jumped through many expensive hoops, deign to write me a homeowner's policy
- spent an extra four days in Albuquerque vacationing with my family prior to a conference which my work required me to attend (and, hence, paid three extra air fares for the trip)
- spent, basically, every penny I earned
-- Made more money that I had planned on making, and therefore, in 2004, IDamn. I hope that some of my readers understand why I believe this to be a failure. (Rather than, perhaps, a success?) I am aware that nearly fifty per cent of the money I will pay to the !$@&(%$#!! Federal gummint on April 15th will go to present and past military spending, and I begrudge every penny of that. I believe the "war on terror" is fictitious and corrosive, and I think we should never have embarked on the invasion of Iraq and that we should withdraw immediately.
-- Incurred (what I consider to be) a substantial Federal tax liability.
SO: if I believe all this, then why am I turning around and sending this money to the Federal gummint?
Because I lack financial sophistication. There may have been homework that I could have done, but I did not do it. Up til now, my main line of defense against paying a substantial amount of money to the war machine has been very simple: DON'T MAKE MUCH MONEY IN THE FIRST PLACE. Unfortunately, last year I slipped a bit. We needed to buy stuff for the kids. We needed to finish our house. We succumbed to the temptation to buy a bunch of Christmas presents. Damn. (All of these things, by the way, aided in economic recovery and boosted GDP.)
I will write a check -- what, to my way of thinking, is a VERY substantial check -- to the IRS in a few days, and I will send it off, because I don't want to risk my home, my kids' education and my future contributions to peace and justice, whatever they may be. But I will endeavor, in the future, to find ways to give much less to the war machine.
Meanwhile, my wife has a thankless job: representing our not-so-well-off community on the local School Board. A huge wrangle over school budgets and property taxes is underway here, and -- frankly -- I fail to grasp it.
Today I took our car -- a five year old Toyota -- to the shop to get over $1,000 worth of suspension repairs created, in large part, by the ill-maintained local roads on which we must travel.
It seems insane to me. We are all willing to send off thousands of dollars every year to the idiots in Washington. (Even our FICA payments may or MAY NOT end up ever coming back to us as retirees!) But there is a lively -- irate -- passionate -- property tax revolt! Going on in Maine and umpteen other states! HELLO?
Are people unaware that quality schools and well-maintained roads DIRECTLY BENEFIT LAND OWNERS? Have people never learned that taxes that fall on land value, UNLIKE ANY OTHER TAX, are direct fees for services rendered to the owners of land?
I wish I could see some viable alternative option to the burden of my Federal tax liability. But I am glad to pay my property tax -- and I would be even gladder to do so if it were applied to my land only, and not the hard-won improvements (shingles, windows, porches) that I built myself. With my own hands. Supporting local businesses.
Please, please, charge me the full value of my land's appreciation in price. That's OK by me. But these other taxes have got to go.
Lindy Davies is the Program Director of the Henry George Institute.
"Learning to Love the Income Tax"
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