Brutally Honest Audio Rant: Unacceptable Truths – On Taxes
(Computer – Introduction)
(Music intro – “American Idiot Remix” – by Green Day and David Matthews 2)
Good evening and welcome to this week’s Brutally Honest Rant. I’m David Matthews 2, writer of the weekly online column Brutally Honest.
A few weeks ago I kicked off a new series called “Unacceptable Truths” where I expose a certain truth that most of the thinking populace simply refuses to accept because it goes against what they’ve always believed to be true. Sort of like explaining to people that the Earth is round when they all believe it to be flat. The first one in this series was about religion. For those of you who missed that one, you can always read the transcripts over at the Brutally Honest weblog and look for the blog tag “Unacceptable Truths”.
Well it’s time to bring up another unacceptable truth; one that pretty much hits most of us right in our wallets. This one has to do with a subject that we ALL hate to discuss: taxes.
During the winter break I asked my listeners if they could come up with some suggestions on how to improve the show. One of the suggestions I got was that perhaps I could spend some time talking about the Fair Tax Bill and filling in some of the blanks that people seem to get wrong about what it is and what it can do for the American people.
The Fair Tax Bill – for those of you who don’t know what it is – was an idea originally developed in the 1930’s as a way to pay all government programs through a national sales tax instead of taxing income. It would have been a great idea… except for the fact that it came about while we were still trying to recover from the Great Depression and that the government WANTED people to spend money instead of hiding it under mattresses and in buried pickle jars. Anyway, the idea sat around for a few decades until a Congressman named John Linder discovered it and has been trying to get it passed into law as a way to reform the tax code. You may have heard about or read the book that Congressman Linder wrote along with talking head Neal Boortz called “The Fair Tax Book” that pretty much explains the whole program. I’m almost through reading it myself and certainly recommend it anyone who is interested in fixing the tax system… and I mean REALLY FIXING IT… because THIS would do the job.
Anyway, I continually hear from people about how the Fair Tax Bill would be a GREAT bill… but that it would never work. I would ask them why they think that it would never work and they usually come up with some half-truths about the bill. They would claim it’s just a value-added tax – which it isn’t. They would claim that it would be an undue burden on the poor – which it certainly would not. If anything the Fair Tax bill would be far more of a help for the poor than anything currently on the table today. And then, of course, we have the flip-side of that claim, that the Fair Tax Bill would “benefit the rich”, even though it would tax EVERYONE no matter how much money they made.
And I could go on and on all night about each of these excuses, debunking each of the claims, answering all of the questions… and I will at some point between now and April 15th. But I will say that each of these excuses – and they really are excuses – as to why the Fair Tax Bill would not work pretty much all stem from the same unacceptable truth that we have about taxes, and especially about our current tax system.
So what is the unacceptable truth? Here it is: no matter how well informed you claim to be about the system… no matter how well informed you think you are about politics… the American people, for the most part, HAVE NO IDEA WHATSOEVER about the full scope of our current tax system! And it’s done so ON PURPOSE!
We all think that we know something about the tax system. We always believe – no matter how much money that we make – that WE, as individuals, are paying WAY TOO MUCH in taxes. Consequentially, we think that there’s someone else out there who is not paying “enough”. We can’t really prove it, of course, but we’ll believe it to be gospel. We’re paying “too much” and someone else is not paying “enough”. NOT US, though! NEVER US!
Seriously! Has anyone ever stepped forward with a straight face and honestly said that THEY are not paying enough and that they REALLY should be paying MORE in taxes? If you ever came across that person, I’m sure that you’d be ready to check them in to the local insane asylum, because that’s just plain CRAZY talk!
Well part of the reason why we keep on thinking that we are paying way too much is because we really have NO IDEA how much we’re truly paying in taxes! The stuff that we see when we do our Income Tax statements is only part of the total taxes that we end up paying. But we think that it is ALL that we are paying.
For most of us, we have no idea that the companies we work for ALSO have to pay taxes on us! We don’t have a clue about that because we don’t see that money, but it is still being given up on our behalf. You want to know why your boss doesn’t want to give you a raise? It’s probably not because you don’t deserve one but because it would cost the company more than you would ever know!
We don’t factor in the taxes that we pay for utilities like phone or cable service. We don’t factor in the additional sales taxes we’re currently paying in various states across America. If you’re in one of those states that have to pay local option sales taxes, then you’re voting for numerous sales taxes and not factoring in how much those have an effect on your bottom line. You don’t think about it because it’s only for one percent here and one percent there. Some areas could have ten or more such plans, all rotating about for you to pay every time you go to the store. And you actually VOTE for them every time! Why? Because you don’t know any better! Most of us are ignorant about it all and we just keep on voting them in because they “sound good”.
If you could find a way to add all that up, you’ll find that you’re probably losing around half of your paycheck just to pay taxes! That’s a lot of money, and most of you have no idea that you’re paying that much! You don’t know about it because you don’t see it, just like the taxes that are taken out of your paycheck before you even get one penny put into your account. Out of sight, out of mind.
And that’s not counting the effect that higher taxes have on the price of goods! This is a basic rule that most people don’t realize… businesses do not pay taxes in the same way that human beings do! They don’t pay the taxes, they pass it on to us as part of the price of their goods! For the end-user, taxes are taxes, but for businesses, taxes are just another part of overhead. So every dollar in taxes that businesses are expected to pony up for YOUR raise gets passed on to the consumers. You want to tax corporations for making too much money? All you’re doing is taxing yourself because they’ll just pass that amount off to us through higher prices. That’s a basic rule of business that most of the great unwashed are absolutely CLUELESS about!
But we will still delude ourselves into thinking that based on how much we THINK we’re paying, that we know who’s really paying too much and who’s not paying “enough”. And the basis for this delusion? Simply on how much more money so-called “rich people” are making. Oh, they have a mansion? Then they’re not paying “enough” in taxes! They need to pay more! They make $500,000 a year? $700,000 a year? One million? A million-plus? Then they’re not paying “enough” in taxes! They need to pay more!
Listen up jerkoffs! You don’t even know how much YOU are losing in taxes! You certainly are in NO POSITION to determine how much someone else IS paying and SHOULD be paying in taxes!
I hate to be blunt about it, but the sheer stupidity on this subject pretty much overwhelms my sense of courtesy. This mentality of “over-tax the rich” has essentially created a system that punishes success and punishes achievement. It basically says that you’re really not supposed to have the American Dream, and if you DO want it, then you have to pay, and pay big, and pay continually, and pay through the nose, and keep paying until you can no longer afford that American Dream.
And it is all done for a reason.
Let’s get brutally honest here… the reason why our tax system is so screwed up and why we’re getting taxed six-ways-to-Sunday without even knowing it is because it benefits the politicians! It gives them POWER. They can use our distorted sense of class inequality against us; promising to make “the rich” pay through the nose, while at the same time giving out tax breaks for businesses and “tax credits” – essentially IOUs – for the rest of us.
It allows for both Democrats and Republicans to CLAIM to care about the “middle class” while at the same time bleeding them dry. Times are tough, so we’re going to give you a “tax credit” or a “tax deduction” that you can cash in the next time you fill out your tax forms. Of course it’ll be just a fraction of what we’re really getting out of you, and of course we get to keep the interest, but you’ll never notice because you don’t know how much you’re losing in the first place, and any little bit helps, right? Oh, and don’t worry, we’ll get “the rich” to pay for it, even while we’re giving them instant tax breaks and tax cuts and they get to fob the difference down to you in the form of higher prices. But again, you’ll never notice that. You’ll just point fingers at “the rich” and call on us for help as you have been doing all these years.
There it is, boys and girls. The tax system, all laid out for you. Whole generations of doublespeak and hypocrisy, of false promises and flimflam con games. And much like the legend of Dorian Gray, its magic only works when you don’t get to see the full picture. For once you do, the ugliness of it all is exposed, and you can’t help but be repulsed by it and demand for change. It’s based entirely on your ignorance and on your distorted view of wealth and success.
And THAT is the real reason why the Fair Tax Bill or any other such bill would ever fail to be enacted. Not because it would be a “bad idea”, but because this kind of system would replace the schizophrenic system that exists today. It would eliminate the required ignorance from the masses, it would free up large sums of money that people never knew were being taken away from them, it would equally provide more money in taxes than currently possible, and it would take away the POWER that the legislators currently have.
There are plenty of institutions and organizations and businesses out there today that are making a fortune off this unacceptable truth. And they will continue to make a fortune off this unacceptable truth until we decide to stop playing around with the tax system and actually DEMAND that the system work for US instead of working for everyone EXCEPT US.
(Computer – Some timely stuff of course that you’ll have to hear to appreciate)
(Fade Music In – “Heretic, Hero” by Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori)
Listen, folks, when it comes to taxes, we’re in some dangerous territory here. We’re coming up to a point really soon where we won’t be able to afford to keeping government going as is and still play games with our current tax system. Something’s gotta give, and we’re going to piss some group off no matter what happens, even if we choose to let things go on as they are now.
If we continue to simply tweak the current system and continue to play on our dysfunctions, then all we can ever do is just buy some more time. But that’s all that it is. It’s a delaying tactic. The same problem will still be there; it’s just going to be pushed back a couple more years.
If we want to actually RESOLVE the problem, then we need to fundamentally rethink how we look at taxation. We can’t just tweak the system. We have to scrap it entirely and start from scratch with a new approach and a new system that EVERYONE gets to take part in equally.
And once upon a time I thought that reform would involve an absolute flat tax… no exceptions, no deductions, no exemptions. But after looking at the Fair Tax – and yes that was BEFORE I actually read the book – I have to say that THIS is the system that can do everything we want it to do.
Either way, though, we gotta do something… and we had better do it soon before the choices are made FOR us, and, at that point, nobody will like how it turns out.
(Computer – Ending/“End of Recording”)
[End of program]