Thursday, April 22, 2010


The following op ed will be published in today's Emporia Gazette.  I'm hoping Professor Peterson reads it and agrees to pay our taxes next year.

Well, they’re done. Our taxes have been filed. My wife depressed the “enter” key and that was that. All that’s left now is to wait for tax independence day, which I think will come just in time for a bit of Christmas shopping.

Each April of my adult life I’ve been afflicted by a seasonal disorder. It’s become so familiar now that I’ve given it an acronym – M.S.A., which stands for Monetary Separation Anxiety. There’s no known cure for it.

I suppose an attitude change might help. A month or so ago John Peterson wrote a piece about how delightful the whole tax process is. I read it three times to be sure it wasn’t satire and I’ve concluded there was nothing tongue-in-cheek about it. He’s dead serious. He really enjoys paying taxes.

I learned some amazing things. I never realized that taxes are solely responsible for our culture. Does that mean we’ve got the tax man to thank for Shakespeare, Dickens, Mark Twain, Hemingway, Louisa May Alcott, Gertrude Stein, the Metropolitan Opera, Van Gogh, Vermeer, El Greco, Michelangelo, Georgia O’Keefe, and Andy Warhol? Apparently so.

I never knew that if I gave more money to the government I could own that Swiss chalet I’ve coveted for years. But, if the Swedes can do it, so can I. And, if we all pony up another twenty or thirty percent to the government we may eventually own Europe, making us new age imperialists on a grand scale. Can you imagine?

Of course, none of it costs us a dime. The government just gives and gives and gives…and gives. It’s like the old Dire Straits tune – “Money for nothin’ and your chicks for free.” What a country!

I can’t recall the last time we got any money back. In fact, that might be the mother of all non sequiturs. The government isn’t giving anybody anything. Generally speaking, people have just overpaid during the year, allowing the government to use their money as float, without interest. Even greedy bankers give better rates of return.

It doesn’t work much better at the city or county level. I’ve never gotten a tax return check from either of them. If they’ve sent the moolah it must have gone somewhere else, like Forrest Gump’s million dollar wound, because “I ain’t seen a dime of that money.”

I used to think that death was a way of escaping the government’s clutches, but age and experience have shown me otherwise. Someone (I think it was George Will) recently observed that death itself, under our current system, is a taxable offense.

But, maybe Professor Peterson is right. There’s got to be a silver lining or a pony buried in the manure that I’m missing. Maybe I should spend some time lobbying on behalf of the government. I could lobby for a new state motto, to be emblazoned on our license plates – “KANSAS – Our taxes are just a smidge lower than Sweden’s.” I might be able to talk the city commissioners into erecting a new sign near that Taliban vintage tank that guards exit 127. It would read – “EMPORIA – Even the Sheriff of Nottingham would be a piker here.” Maybe we could have a parade. We could all play kazoos, wear red, white and blue party hats, toss confetti, and watch marching bands and floats pass by for hours. The parade meisters could instruct the bands to play “The Tax Man” as they pass in review. It could start an annual tradition, rivaling December’s “seasonal parade.” In time our commissioners could levy some sort of celebration or parade tax against participants and spectators. Oh, joy!

This kind of joy could spill outward from Emporia, like ripples on the water. In time they’d get to Europe, particularly Sweden where things are so swell. Maybe we could get them to pay for our national defense, and while we’re at it, we could get the French, the Dutch, the Italians, the Spanish, the Taiwanese, the Japanese, and others to chip in their fair share. That way, I’d get to concentrate on paying for my grandchildren’s college educations while “old Europe” and “new Asia” protect me and my loved ones from Osama and other enemies who are lurkin’ about.

I see what Professor Peterson means. Taxes can be a real hoot. It’s a bit late this year, so I’ll have to bite the bullet. But I think next year I’ll send my tax bills to him, care of the Gazette. I want give him an additional opportunity for joy. In fact, I recommend that Gazette readers who are so inclined also forward theirs to him. It’ll make his April, 2011 a real barrel of monkeys.

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