“You live in too big of a house,” were the exact words the agent said to me.
I’m not good in those types of situations. I get pissed off and shoot my mouth off.
“I’m sorry, when did the size of my house become any of your damn business?” was my EXACT reply.
“It’s my business she you can’t pay your tax bill,” she said sternly, over her glasses.
“Well, maybe you charge too much. Did that thought ever cross your mind?” I volleyed.
“Of course not! We are the Federal Government and it is your fiduciary responsibility …”
That’s kinda where she lost me and I checked out. The rest of it was a blur of me going off on how taxation was theft and how she had no idea what my life was like and how difficult it was to maintain a household and take care of the people in my life that I take care of, while also balancing a career and trying to stay current on the exorbitant tax hikes that keep getting passed in Washington DC, etc, etc.
Then she told me that maybe I should consider getting into a different line of work. Because clearly, I wasn’t doing well enough in this one. That’s when I stormed out.
I guess 23 number one songs isn’t enough success. Also, my career was tanking (like every other songwriter’s) because of the government control of my business that hadn’t been updated since 1978. But I digress. Another blog for another day …
It was my one (and only) trip down to the Federal building, by myself, to try and work out some sort of settlement of a tax bill. I thought it would be kinda pure – just me coming in alone, talking to them face to face.
It turned out, that the agency was every horrible thing I thought it was…and more.
The representative actually (like, for real) was encouraging me to sell my house to pay the tax bill.
She didn’t know that I had spent 5 years renovating and customizing that house (that’s where a lot of the money went) for my special needs daughter, and that because of that, I was saving the state a lot of money in services they would be on the hook for, without my wife and I mitigating the issues of this life that nobody was paying for but us.
She didn’t realize that I had also spent over 6 figures building a mother-in-law apartment, to take care of another family member in this house, that was also saving the tax payers money in the long run.
*Yes, I live with my mother-in-law. It’s how I’m getting into Heaven.*
She didn’t take into account the thousands of dollars in medical bills we had paid out of our pocket that year – which should’ve been dollar-for-dollar write offs, but were only 40% write offs, based on someone’s arbitrary sense of “fairness.” The money still goes away whether you can write it off or not.
She didn’t care about Christmas and Thanksgiving my kids already being in the school system and having friends and teachers that they both needed – because BOTH of them had I.E.P’s.
She didn’t realize that moving all the people out of that house and location, and into another one, that could accommodate all of that, would be a Herculean task probably impossible to achieve. In fact, it would probably disrupt our lives to the point of some sort of breakdown on some level.
No, she didn’t care about any of that. She just looked at the bottom line and coldly told me to sell my house.
That is what government does.
Most people are situational liberals. We all have an innate sense of fair play and justice and we don’t like to see huge income disparities, where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and some people become destitute while other people fly to the US Open on private jets, etc, cliche, etc, cliche, etc.
That makes some people vote for “statists” who promise to make those things go away with the raw power and iron fist of government control.
“We’ll set it straight!” says the government. “We’ll make sure it’s all fair and no little guy gets trampled by any big guy,” says the biggest guy.
And all of that sounds great…in theory. But once it gets into actual practice, that’s almost never what really happens.
My music class has been watching documentaries on luminaries in the music world: people like Frank Sinatra and Bob Dylan. Both of those guys were icons and heroes of the left. But over time, their views broadened and changed and they realized that life and government was more complicated and nuanced than the simple stances we often take.
See, there’s a thing called “Price’s Law.” It’s named after the physicist who developed it. It is an organizing, UNIVERSAL principle that things naturally cluster. Stars cluster. Planets cluster. Trees cluster. People cluster.
Why have millions of people made a 22-mile-long, 2.5-mile-wide island in New York the most populated city in America? Price’s law.
We don’t really know how or why this happens, but it does. This is where we get that blasted 1% when it comes to wealth. Because, yes…wealth clusters too.
I live in a city that houses the greatest songwriters on planet Earth. Why are they all here? Price’s law.
The idea of taxing into fairness is an attempt to break up Price’s law and distribute everything more fairly and equitably. But it never happens and it never HAS happened. Because you can’t legislate a universal principle out of existence.
What actually DOES happen when you create more government and collect more taxes, is you necessarily create more bureaucracy to manage all of the fairness. But here’s the thing: the people who get hired to do those jobs don’t consider themselves to be a part of any problem. They just have a gig. And they base their entire lives on that gig. They pay bills and buy cars and send kids to college and…yes…buy houses…and build a whole existence around this gig.
And sooner or later, they are convinced that this gig is necessary to life on Earth and that they are supposed to be where they are and everybody else is supposed to be subordinate to that.
When maybe, the gig itself that they hold, isn’t part of anything necessary and is an impediment to the forward progress of a free market and the cultivation of free minds.
Until you get a firm grasp on this, you will still believe there is such a thing as “paying your fair share” in taxes.
Fair share to whom?
Is the government entitled to all the money?
Does someone else paying more or less affect your actual tax burden?
Do higher tax rates actually bring about fairness in the real world?
Could social goals be achieved better and more efficiently through private means, rather than government programs?
These are the questions you have to ask yourself, to fundamentally understand where you are when it comes to taxes and the role of government.
The nation is another debate over this very thing as I type. And all the same old arguments are coming out to play. At this point it is simply boring.
Donald Trump lowered the corporate tax rate by 14 points and the economy exploded in ways I’ve never seen in my lifetime. It’s basic math. You shave 14 points off the vig and suddenly business can expand and breathe.
And we’ve been living off that breath all through this insanity of lock down and business closure. Getting catty with taxes right now just isn’t a good idea. In fact, it never is.
And it’s not even about economics (for all my soon-to-post-armchair-self-procalimed-economics-experts). It’s about the basic principle of the fundamental question: who’s money is it in the first place?
If you believe it belongs to the earner, so many taxes will ever make sense.
But if you believe it all belongs to the collective, no tax will ever be enough.
And you will develop the kind of hubris and cockeyed thinking that will have you telling a self-made, self-employed songwriter, who has already paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes, who now has a special needs daughter, and who is just slugging it out to keep the roof above everybody’s head …
that he needs to live somewhere else.
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