A Hardy Perennial

by Jay Nordlinger

Much of journalism, like much of life, is repetition. One consolation is that some listeners haven’t heard our songs before. Other listeners may actually like them, repeatedly. Anyway, I have given something like the below sermon before. Now, congregation, sit up straight in your pews and see what you think:

Tax Day isn’t very fun, is it? I mean, we all want to pay taxes, or at least don’t mind doing so — price of civilization and all. But we do mind when we think the taxes are too high and too numerous; when we think that they’re onerous and counterproductive. That is the way many of us feel right now. I don’t speak only of federal taxes, but of state and city taxes as well. They keep coming and coming . . .

I grew up listening to George McGovern say the following, all the time — whenever the subject of taxes came up: “Well, my dear old dad used to say, if you’re paying taxes, you’re doing pretty well.” So we were all supposed to shut up about taxes: because, if we were paying them, we were Richie Riches. You know how it goes.

Bill Buckley and I used to share a complaint about the tax code, and this is the way we would put it, when complaining together: The tax code pits Americans against one another. It pits homeowners against renters, married people against unmarried people, people with children against people without children, people with children going to college against people with children going into trades — and on and on. The tax code is packed with social policy, and bias. That’s one reason I say, a pox on it.

And what did Jimmy Carter call it? “A disgrace to the human race.” About one thing, at least, he was right.

I also think that every worker should pay taxes — which I know is not a popular position. I think the pimply kid just starting out at McDonald’s should pay taxes, and that Donald Trump should pay taxes. Everyone contributing to the commonweal. The pimply kid contributes a little; Trump contributes a lot — but it’s equitable.

Finally, I want to share a memory: When a conservative friend and I first started paying taxes (beginning of college, basically), we liked to imagine that our particular taxes were going to particular purposes. Laudable purposes. For example, we’d say, “Our taxes are going to pay the salary of Elliott Abrams,” the smart young assistant secretary of state who appeared on Crossfire now and then. We’d say, “Our taxes are going to pay Cap Weinberger,” the secretary of defense. And so on.

It was kind of fun. And it made us feel better about paying taxes. You may wish to try it. For example, you could say, “My taxes are going to subsidize ACORN.”

Oh, no, that won’t work . . .

I know I’ve mentioned this before (along with all of the above) — but here it is again: I had a golf instructor, one of the greats (Bill Strausbaugh Jr., the most decorated teaching pro in the PGA), who would often repeat himself, necessarily. Repetition is virtually the soul of coaching. (Bill made a distinction between teaching and coaching. “I can teach you all there is to know in a few lessons — so I’m your teacher for those few lessons. But I’m your coach for life.”)

He’d say, “I may bore you, but I hope never to confuse you.” I may repeat myself, but I want to be perfectly clear. (Oh, no, that was Nixon.)