I have now officially filed my tax returns.
Every year I do this, as required by law, and it’s always the same routine. I spend a day beating my skull against the wall of financial regulation (what does that bit of money qualify as, again? is this a 401b or an XR4TI or an Illudium Q36 Space Modulator? and how does that determine what line to put it down on?) with the help of the latest software assistant, and every year I end up with the same revelations.
First, that we made more money than we thought. It doesn’t matter how much money the actual income was – I’ve had the same thought since I was filing 1040EZ forms to report my income from the summer job at 7/11 that I had in college – it’s always more than we thought, because where did it go? We don’t seem to have much of it left over, and it’s not like we’re living in the lap of luxury over here.
Second, that we owe a pile of money. As a half-time academic advisor and the adjunct historian on call here at Home Campus, my income is, shall we say, variable, and Kim is always finding new projects to do that someone will pay her for. Between those two facts there is a valley labeled “Exemptions? What Exemptions?” It’s been years since we’ve guessed correctly on that score, and so of late there is always a bill to pay at the end of the year.
Although this year we pegged Wisconsin right on the nose – no bill, no refund – which felt pretty good, I have to say, especially since last year they lost my check and there was Much Unpleasantness on both sides about that.
And third, that I don’t really mind paying that money. Oh sure, I could always use it for more books or Buffalo wings or similar items that make my world a brighter place, but I am not lacking for such things as it is. As a devotee of library sales, for example, I now have several bags’ worth of books in my to-read pile that collectively cost me less than a cheeseburger meal at my local fast food joint, and as I get older I find that I have to space out the Buffalo wings anyway as I love the hot and spicy far more than my body does anymore. I do have a Wings Buddy and we try to get together every so often for wings and conversation, but neither of us has much free time to speak of so it doesn’t happen often enough and the only positive thing about that fact is that my budget for such things doesn’t have to be all that large.
No, I don’t mind paying my taxes because I Am Not Stupid.
We have forgotten the concept of “enlightened self-interest” here in the New Gilded Age and have confused “self-interest” with “selfishness.” There is an entire population in this country who seriously thinks that greed and egoism is the only moral standard for any activity, the only basis for an economy, and the only way politics can be organized. They are many, they are loud, they are ignorant, and they are in power – all of which means that the future of this nation as a republic and as a world leader is currently rather dim.
Short-sighted greed is no way to run anything, folks.
You need to take a long view. You need to understand that even if you choose not to examine the moral aspects of creating and sustaining a community – and harsh experience has taught me that the only thing I get from discussing morality with anyone from that population is older – your own self-interest comes from making short-term sacrifices for long-term gain. I am better off when my neighbors are better off, and if I cling tightly to my lucre while monotonously chanting “taxation is theft!” and fondling my Big Bad Firearm, then nobody wins.
Taxation is the price you pay for civilization.
Those who tell you otherwise are telling you a great deal about themselves, really.