Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tax Time

April 15. One of the most distinctive days of the year. There is something beautiful about a society that calls upon its citizens to voluntarily calculate how much money they owe and send it in—and beyond that, to keep the records of their financial affairs for seven years.

I have always done the family taxes, and I like to keep it simple. If we end up giving a little more than absolutely necessary, it’s a small price to pay for the peace and security, the national parks and the fine schools, the FBI and the social security, the medical research and the Medicare and all the rest.

One of the pages of the federal tax book that’s seldom read, I suspect, is page 91, where they tell you what they spend the money on. I note that 66 percent of the national budget is devoted to social programs. This includes programs for retirees, Medicaid, food stamps, temporary assistance, education, the environment, farm support, unemployment compensation, assisted housing, the waiters at Mammoth Springs Lodge, and other fine services. Twenty percent has been spent on keeping our armed forces modern and funding the Global War on Terrorism and “other national defense activities.” Only 1 percent was spent on international assistance and diplomacy combined, which underscores the old adage, “Talk is cheap.”

I always feel good when the taxes have been filed. It’s like the start of a new life. We know a little better where we stand.

Lots of people are feeling they’re not quite so well off as they used to be, and many are really wondering how they’re going to make ends meet. A recent Homeland Security report warned that right-wing extremist groups have been gaining adherents at an alarming rate, due to the economy’s downturn, and that seems like a plausible turn of events to me. But conservative groups have been clamoring for a retraction. I think the time has come for the expression “conservative knee-jerk reaction” to gain wider currency.

That will probably never happen, because Democrats are far less likely than Republicans to resort to such dumbing-down slogans.

Oh the other hand, the Democaratic slogan “Hope is on the Way” is perhaps the worst of all time. With Obama, we feel, better results are on the way. Even Homeland Security suddenly seems like a good idea.

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