Federal taxes are literally a cradle-to-grave burden. Infants — or actually their parents — are subject to a 75-cent-per- dose tax on vaccines. You cannot immunize Jack Jr. from rubella without Uncle Sam snatching his six bits.
Of course, if you bury an elderly loved one, the death tax kicks in, confiscating up to 55 percent of some estates.
Between the crib and the crypt, Washington offers every American a life-long opportunity to pump money into the Beltway. Some taxes, such as the individual-income and Social-Security levies, are big and widely debated. But a plethora of smaller, more obscure taxes vacuums even more cash from citizens’ bank accounts.
When Jack Jr. grows up and starts to drive, he begins to pay the 18.4 cent-per-gallon gasoline tax. When he drives his brother’s car, the 24.4 cent-per-gallon diesel tax kicks in.
Jack soon goes away to school. When he flies off to Georgetown University (my alma mater), the cost of his plane ticket includes the 4.4 cent-per-gallon jet-fuel tax. Add to that the 7.5 percent domestic-passenger ticket tax, plus $2.50 per segment.
One of Jack’s chief campus activities is the consumption of copious quantities of beer. It isn’t quite college without it. The $18-per-barrel beer tax takes a gulp out of his savings.
Jack needs more money, so he calls home. When he uses a calling card, it has had a 3 percent tax slapped on it. When he rings from his dorm room, the telephone excise tax hikes his bill by 3 percent. Then there’s the unconstitutional Universal-Service-Fund fee imposed by the Federal Communications Commission, rather than Congress, to finance Internet connections for schools and libraries. That charge rose on February 21 from 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent of long-distance phone costs.
After graduation, Jack goes to work. He becomes an art importer and exporter, paying a $1,000 annual occupational tax on importers and a 6.25 percent tax each time he completes an airfreight waybill.
Jack meets Jill. They start dating and move in together. A year later, they get hitched and instantly get socked with the marriage penalty on the $25,000 each earns. Together, they pay $1,400 more in taxes than when they were shacked up.
Before long, Jack thrives at work. He buys a BMW every few years, handing Uncle Sam a luxury tax of 5 percent of the price exceeding $38,000. Jack and Jill invest well, paying the Section 31(a) tax of 3 cents on every $1,000 worth of stocks which they purchase.
Jack starts to enjoy the finer things in life. The $13.50-per-gallon distilled-spirits tax hits his purchases of single-malt Scotch whiskey. He loves smoking a pipe, spending an extra 95.67 cents per pound for tobacco.
When Jack and Jill go to the races, the Feds swipe 0.25 percent off each wager. The track employees who take their bets send $50 to Washington annually for the privilege.
Jill takes up archery, paying the 11 percent tax on bows and the 12.4 percent levy on arrows. Jack’s new boat includes an outboard motor, taxed at 3 percent of value, not to surpass $30.
Jack and Jill eventually retire and spend their time sightseeing abroad, paying $39.60 in international departure, arrival, Customs, animal inspection, and immigration taxes whenever they fly overseas.
At this point, readers are urged not to put guns to their heads. Not only is that dangerous, but a 10 percent tax applies to pistols and revolvers, while ammunition is taxed at 11 percent.
Unfortunately, Washington sees the money in every wallet as something that really belongs at the Treasury, where politicians can spend it on wonderful things.
President Bush’s 10-year, $1.6-trillion tax cut would begin to rein in this nonsense. Compared to the $28 trillion in expected tax revenues between now and 2011, Bush’s “massive” tax cut is petite. Both the floundering economy and basic justice demand a much larger tax cut with rate reductions right now. Anticipating President Reagan’s third of three rate cuts in January 1983, the economy tanked in 1982. Cutting rates fully and immediately would avoid that mistake by encouraging entrepreneurs to invest today rather than await lower taxes tomorrow.
If not this year, then soon, President Bush and congressional tax cutters should replace these silly little levies with a low-rate, flat tax with limited deductions.
Should President Bush sign this year’s tax cut into law, Jack and Jill will pop open a bottle of champagne to celebrate…while cursing the $3.40-per-gallon federal tax on sparkling wine.