Politics & Policy

Uncle Sam’s Long Arm

Let's have Election Day on tax day.

It’s that time of year again. Uncle Sam takes off that gaudy blue coat, puts on his white smock, and snaps that all-too-familiar rubber glove into place. And we, the taxpayers, must gird ourselves for intrusions of proctological magnitude and glacial duration by the revenuers.

This year I’m getting started early on my taxes. Well, early for me. As with the man subjected to a rusty guillotine prone to getting stuck on the way down, the chief benefit is that I get more time to contemplate the inevitable and undesirable. I will also finally get to vent about taxes in a column that will appear before April 15, which is a bit like getting the opportunity to say, “Hey, this guillotine is in a terrible state of disrepair!” seconds before Ben Franklin’s adage that nothing in the world is certain other than death and taxes is proven once again.

As if you couldn’t tell already, this won’t be an exercise in green-eye shaded wonkery. I no more care if Schedule C of this is correctly tabulated for Chart 13 on that than passengers of the Titanic cared if the evening’s unpleasantness meant that the shuffleboard tournament would be canceled the next day.

But unlike the passengers of the Titanic, I want this ship to go down. Throw the whole thing away and start over.

For starters, no more purchasing the Leviathan State on layaway. And that means: Get rid of withholding, a World War II measure intended as a temporary policy to pay for the war instead of putting it on a credit card. Even a system of mandatory quarterly payments for those who are self-employed is no good. Why is Uncle Sam entitled to an interest-free loan just because it makes things more convenient for him? If the feds want to borrow money from citizens, they should sell bonds.

Take out your calendar. Notice how tax day and Election Day are conspicuously far apart? And note all the holidays involving gifts, booze, and sleep-inducing meals (turkey good . . . losing . . . consciousness) interspersed between the two occasions? Mightn’t this be to encourage forgetfulness and reduce buyer’s remorse? Of course, as they used to say in the old Time-Life Mysteries of the Unknown commercials, this is “dismissed as coincidence.”

Whatever. I say let’s have Election Day on tax day. Let’s get what we’re paying for. Sign the check — for the full amount — and write in your preferred candidates on the back of the same check.

Abracadabra . . . smaller government, here we come.

Not only should we get rid of payroll taxes, let’s get rid of tax brackets (or, in a brief nod to reality, reduce the number of them). The top half of earners already pay something like 96 percent of all income taxes. The top 5 percent pay 54 percent.

But Barack Obama says the rich are getting away with murder, which is one reason why he wants to revive actuarial grave-robbing known as the death tax. Joe Biden questions the patriotism of anyone who doesn’t want to pay higher taxes. Well, as Joe himself might say — since we know he could say pretty much anything at any moment — slap my fanny and call me Benedict Arnold.

Last fall, Mr. Biden invoked “Catholic social doctrine” to justify hiking income taxes on the “wealthy” even higher. Actually, relying on Catholic social doctrine is fine by me. The Catholic Church has long held that rich and poor alike should tithe — which means giving a flat 10 percent of your money to good causes. That sounds pretty good.

But not to Pope Biden the First and others who say a flat — or flatter — tax would be immoral because it would reward the rich and punish the poor.

Obama, famous for his belief that the government should “spread the wealth around,” said in his address to Congress that Bush’s tax cuts amounted to a massive “transfer (of) wealth to the wealthy,” as if that wealth belongs to the government and starts out in Uncle Sam’s bank account. Now the president wants the deduction for charitable giving reduced, which is what you would expect from an administration in which Joe Biden is considered to be morally infallible.

Yes, I want to keep more of my money — because it’s mine. But there are people who don’t see it that way. The problem with those people isn’t simply that they’re wrong. It’s that they are in charge.

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