I’m caught up with the IRS for the first time ever. I’m 45 years old.
From the ages of 18 to 32 I never filed a tax return. Not because I didn’t want to. I have a mental illness. I’m really bad with paperwork and very disorganized.
Finally the IRS caught up with me (after the one time I ever voted – thank you,Seth) and I paid everything I ever owed plus massive penalties.
Plus I went to jail.
Kidding. I didn’t go to jail. I paid everything. But I was scared all the time.
Then every year or so I get behind again. But now for the first time in forever, I am totally caught up. Penalties and all.
Is it worth it? Do I get my money’s worth?
Well, you can say, they pay for the police which protect you.
Really? My door is unlocked this second. If someone came in with a gun he could walk right in, walk up to me while i’m typing (I am so incredibly focused I wouldn’t even notice him) and he could shoot me. Then he can rob my house. He can take my two things of value: my ipad mini and my animation cel from the opening sequence of “I Dream of Jeannie” and he can walk out.
I live right next to a train station. I just heard the train right now. He could hop on that train and disappear into Chinatown 80 miles away. That’s the way this happens.
The police would arrive, take notes: “Clearly someone walked in, shot James point blank in the head, and then removed something from the wall and then disappeared into thin air and is probably sipping bubble tea right now.” And that would be the end of it.
Ok, what else. Taxes pay for the Defense of this country so nobody could invade here and destroy my way of life. Like Canada, for instance.
My taxes back student loans, which has allowed college presidents to jack up tuitions higher than inflation for 40 straight years in a row and ruin the lives of a generation of kids.
And my taxes back mortgage loans, which created a fantastic piece of entertainment called the Fiscal Crisis of 2008. We were all glued to our TVs for a few months until I singlehandledly solved the fiscal crisis (see my book).
What else? Pave roads and bridges. Fair enough. But bit by bit those roads and bridges are being privatized so it’s unclear who is more efficient at doing this: the government or private industry.
I’m willing to believe the government was at one time more efficient – there’s no way to know- but my guess is private industry is better at dealing with repairs, congestion pricing, and other things that will make life easier.
Why do I think this? Because Detroit is bankrupt. And other cities are in trouble. So I’d rather have Exxon pave my highway with their $60 billion in profits than Detroit, which has squandered all of their taxpayer money. As an extreme example.
What else do my taxes pay for? I have no idea. Public school? My kid gets 100% on almost every test. I try to tell her, “that’s not a good thing! It means you aren’t being challenged. I’m calling the teacher.”
“Wait, Dad, no!” she says, “don’t do that. I won’t have any friends then.”
So…fear of isolation, and tests that have questions like “20 times 30 equals ____”. Ok, public schools. CHECK!
Let me see, what else do taxes pay for. Oh! I love a couple of restaurants in my town. That’s where I get my food. Do they pay for that? No.
Is Amazon a government department? Is Jeff Bezos the Secretary of Amazon? Because I like reading books I get at big discounts. Hmmm, no.
Did my taxes pay Bryan Cranston for playing Walter White on TV? What? No? Ok, no tax credits for “Breaking Bad”.
Did my taxes buy me love? Was I able to deduct date expenses when trying to find a wife? Because my wife has made me infinitely more productive and hence the government has made a lot of money because of that.
No. Those dinners at El Quijote came straight out of my pocket.
My taxes haven’t paid for my clothes. For one thing, I haven’t bought new clothes in years. Nor do they pay me for my coffee in the morning although without it I would make no money.
Do my taxes pay for for food for people that might be stuck in horrible situations? Maybe. But I’m cool with that. That’s about 3% of my taxes.
I’m proud to be an American. Believe me, I’d much rather be an American than live just about anywhere else except for maybe Iceland. How come? I have no idea. But that’s what I’ve been taught since I was a kid and I’ve had no problems with it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
And when I visit Washington DC, it looks so beautiful. All of the massive buildings with the Greek-style architecture that stretch for miles and miles. All of those buildings with millions of MBAs and lawyers who help make all the decisions that my taxes pay for.
It’s so beautiful I want to sing “God Bless America”.
But I just wrote a check and I’m feeling sick to my stomach. I want it back.