Taxes, Dear Readers, they vex me.
I recognize what I am saying is a non sequitur from the petitioner's question—this is a common ploy I invoke. There are topics I wish to discuss and the question do not always lend themselves to my answers. Or rather, it is better if the petitioner realizes that the answer they deserve is not always the answer they have requested.
I have in the past invented questions—no more than a handful in ten long years of Advising The American Peoples—but it is so much more joyful to take a question that has been submitted in the goodest of faith and then to release a sort of conversational judo to worm around to the topics I had planned to address and the responses I had already written.
This technique should be familiar with anyone who has read the columns of the Greyest Lady, that Times of New York. Her columnists routinely take a simple occurrence of political import—say, the civil war in Libya—and use it to spin a diatribe on whatever it is they care about (or are being paid to care about by Shadowy Peoples and Organizations). In the words of my erstwhile helpmate Rob, "I learned from watching you." Witness how Ross Douthat or David Brooks can take any event and show how it proves that their long held beliefs are true and correct and that it is time to implement the policies they always clamor for. Witness Maureen the Dowdy forever impugning men by declaring them feminine, as if being feminine was somehow a crime. It is masterful but tiresome. I try not to fall into this rut but also when a question arises like the one above, what can I do?
Perhaps I have been reading the newspapers too much these days? The mind is drawn to Catastrophe and Terrible Events like a tongue worrying a chip in one's razor-sharp beak. And there are so many catastrophes to choose from. It is almost as if the deepest fears of the ID held a meeting at which they drew up a menu of primal fears they could present to America and then forwarded this menu to the operating system of reality itself.
War! Famine! Nuclear fallout in Japan! Economic collapse looming on the horizon! Record numbers of unemployed peoples! Mexico conquered by gangs of criminals! The Europe Union mere years away from dissolution and war! China diverting all streams to feed her crops while neighboring countries go waterless! Deadly tornadoes! Unprecedented snowfall! And a political body more concerned with denying basic medical care at reasonable prices to women than with solving any of America's numerous problems!
It is wearying, Dear Readers, but I cannot look away. My eyes are optically perfect. They have no blind spot to hide behind. I see all. Which brings us to the topic of taxes.
We pay taxes—Yes, we. I am an American Citizen and pay My Fair Share the same as you. We pay taxes so that we may have a civilized society and so that we may enjoy Capitalism. Our taxes pay for roads and school, police and NASA, food inspectors and Sesame Street.
So many years ago when I lived in that mad city in the deepest trenches of Mother Sea I did not pay taxes. Who would I pay them to? The Hungry Goat Who Sings of Midnight? Would I pay them to the Emperor of Silence? Would I gather shells and bits of polished glass and present them to my liege, the Multi-Limbed Devourer? No, of course I would not. What would they do with my painted baubles? What would they provide me? Protection? Freedom? They were unknown concepts.
When I first joined your surface society and learned of Currency and Markets I was curious. Taxes were presented to me as if they were being gathered by a thieving cutpurse who did nothing with my moneys but pay for abortions in foreign lands and desecrate religious buildings with government-sponsored mockeries of art. The man who taught me, he was biased, as they say. A sea captain of these Greatest Lakes, his opinions were firmly rooted in paranoid bigotry and a child's understanding of how the world operated.
When later I discovered that taxes in America were shockingly low and enabled a functioning society to operate with minimal violence and corruption I was greatly pleased to pay them. The safety and prosperity I have found above the waves has been a bargain-bordering-on-theft for me.
But again it is that time if year when we pay taxes and men with a child's understanding of economics and politics take to the airwaves to declare that Every Tax Is A Theft! And that government can do no right. Molly, manager and Gal Friday of the lab, when in Her Cups is fond of complaining of her tax bills and screaming "These wars won't pay for themselves!" Which is hardly a more nuanced position than the blathering manchildren on the Televsion.
Editors of this humble Almanack have assembled a tool with which one can see exactly what their taxes pay for. It is here that a reasonable conversation begins, not with a frame suggestive of theft or murder. Perhaps once we look at the balance sheet we can decide what we as a people wish to pay for and what we wish to do away with.
As for Keshava Murthy, above, I can only suggest that you have contacted the wrong individual and may you have better luck next time.
The Giant Squid
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