Monday, February 22, 2016

Death and Taxes

When Ziggy had the poor form to die almost 7 years ago, I made the decision to stay in the house because his dad was with me, and FIL did not want to move. I was okay with that. Everything happened so fast that I wasn’t even remotely ready to make any life changing decisions.

When FIL took his leave a year and a half ago, I began to consider giving up the house we built. Yes, we built this house on rock and roll, and the room in which I sit now writing this thing is the square I drew on the blueprints with a pencil, smiled, and said, “My study.” There’s new carpet and freshly painted walls. All the posters of productions past are down. Family pictures carefully stacked for the new house.  Most of my books are now in boxes, although my hardcore working books remain on the shelves of the bookcases Ziggy built for me that first year we were married. Routed by hand, sanded by hand. They look weirdly naked, not stuffed to overflowing. And yes, that is the typewriter from the logo sitting atop the left hand bookcase. My dad’s typewriter; a Remington I. Yes, it still types.

But with an income a fraction of Ziggy’s, it was time to grapple with the reality that this is one big house for dog and me. It’s designed for a family with rampant running rug-rats. This is a house in need of a whole lot more activity than it’s getting. And I am in need of right-sizing my life.

The taxes on this barn haven’t really changed with my reduced household income. I pay the same rate we paid as a married couple. Oh, funny thing is, I don’t mind so much. Taxes are the dues I pay to live here…to have the MHFD EMTs come when Steve collapsed in the living room that morning of his heart attack …or to have the cops come roaring up as they did the other day when I inadvertently set off the panic button on the house alarm. And I may not be crazy about District 197, but it’s still one of the best school districts in the state. And all of that, in turn, makes my house worth more.

The taxes I pay at the gas pump help keep the roads up, and I know we need a gas tax hike because our bridges are falling down. I know we have a surplus in the state coffers right now, but folks, that’s rainy day money. In the book of Genesis, even Joseph knew there would be fat years and lean years, and one should always be prepared for those lean ones. I expect to pay for all those things the state provides. I expect to pay for government, and agencies, and safety nets because one day, I might need one of them, and I want them to be there.

I resent like hell people who dodge taxes, and that includes corporations. If you do business in this state and/or this country, you goddamn well better be paying for the privilege of peddling your wares here. I don’t give a goddamn if you pay salaries, your financial obligation for having clean water and secure facilities has a tab and you’d better be picking it up. Telling corporations they can have tax breaks and tax relief is the same as telling your citizens they have to cover the costs of others doing business. How is that fair to the poor working stiff who foots the bill?

Taxes have been around since the first tribal leader put together a team to protect the clansmen. You participate. You provide manpower. You provide provisions. You pay a portion of your crops to the chief and the priests to get protection. I can’t imagine a hunter saying, “I don't feel like paying your tribute,” without getting thrown out of the compound on his keister. The bottom line is: if you receive a service, you pay for it.

These jerks who go on and on about cutting taxes and cutting services, who dodge their fiscal responsibility, who advocate tax evasion, here’s an idea just for you: let’s mark your house and business with a big giant black X. Then, if there are flames coming outta your ceiling, you get a bucket because you are not certified to receive city services. If you have a heart attack in the bathroom, gee, I hope you have a private transport nearby, because you’re not entitled to EMTs and ambulances from the local fire department.  If you have goods to sell, good luck getting them to market, because your trucks do not carry permits to traverse public roads. After all, if you don’t pay for them, why on earth would the rest of us let you use them for free? 

The chart below comes from The Tax Foundation, a non-partisan tax research group. I have no idea which way they blow, but I did find this interesting:

Corporate Income Tax: Rate
Hillary Clinton
No specific proposal.
Ted Cruz
Replaces the corporate income tax with a 16% business transfer tax, which applies to all capital income and labor payments.
Marco Rubio
Lowers the top corporate rate to 25%.
Bernie Sanders
No specific proposal.
Donald Trump
Lowers the top corporate rate to 15%.

It would seem that no candidate has a realistic plan to get corporations to actually pay any taxes.

And here’s another part:  if you move your headquarters to Ireland or Switzerland, or YuchnaPuchnaland in order to evade taxes, here’s a Muppet News Flash for you: you don’t get to sell your product in the US of A without a whole lotta stiff tariffs. If you’re not American enough to pay for doing business here, you’re not American enough to reap the benefits. Hey, big pharma: you are not exempt, either. If you don’t want to bring US drug prices into line with the rest of the world, guess what? We’ll go buying our drugs in Canada where the prices are reasonable. You will no longer be permitted to gouge We, the People to line your own pocketbooks.

The bottom line is a tax revolt that isn’t about NOT paying taxes, but is about paying fair share. This is not about something-for-nothing, it’s about paying something-for-something. We can no longer pretend we live in a society that can afford to be short-changed and over-charged in the name of free enterprise. I have no desire to pay more taxes; I just want to pay the share apportioned to me.

One day, I will be old and I will die. This is as inevitable as me paying taxes. I can only hope that when asked about what I did on this earth, one of the things I will be able to say with impunity is, "I paid my fair share of taxes." 

As the caucuses grow nearer, I am still on the fence between feeling the Bern and going with Hillary. I know I have to make up my mind, but this is a rather large and important decision, one not to be made lightly. But let me assure you, I am waiting to hear someone, anyone, talk about tax evasion and how to remedy this affront to social and fiscal justice. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Make throwing out stuff an annual event. 
You'll thank me for this.


  1. Brilliant, poignant and touching, as usual. Good luck with all your new ventures :)

  2. An estimated 45.3 percent of American households — roughly 77.5 million — will pay no federal individual income tax, according to data for the 2015 tax year from the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan Washington-based research group. (Note that this does not necessarily mean they won’t owe their states income tax.)

    Roughly half pay no federal income tax because they have no taxable income, and the other roughly half get enough tax breaks to erase their tax liability, explains Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center.

    Despite the fact that rich people paying little in the way of income taxes makes plenty of headlines, this is the exception to the rule: The top 1 percent of taxpayers pay a higher effective income tax rate than any other group (around 23 percent, according to a report released by the Tax Policy Center in 2014) — nearly seven times higher than those in the bottom 50 percent.

    On average, those in the bottom 40 percent of the income spectrum end up getting money from the government. Meanwhile, the richest 20 percent of Americans, by far, pay the most in income taxes, forking over nearly 87 percent of all the income tax collected by Uncle Sam.

    The top 1 percent of Americans, who have an average income of more than $2.1 million, pay 43.6 percent of all the federal individual income tax in the US; the top 0.1 percent — just 115,000 households, whose average income is more than $9.4 million — pay more than 20 percent of it.

  3. Very well said. I thought you might be interested in this piece published by Liz Farmer, our finance writer, which supports your argument.