'Cause I'm the Taxman
Welcome to the most feared day of the calendar year for many Americans: Tax Day. The day of reckoning. Or as it’s written in the book of John, Paul, George, and Ringo…
“Let me tell you how it will be / There's one for you, nineteen for me / ...Should five percent appear too small / Be thankful I don't take it all / ...If you drive a car, I'll tax the street / If you try to sit, I'll tax your seat / If you get too cold, I'll tax the heat / If you take a walk, I'll tax your feet / Well I'm the tax man, yeah, I'm the tax man / Don't ask me what I want it for / If you don't want to pay some more / Cause I'm the tax man, yeah, I'm the tax man /...And you're working for no one but me.”
It’s the day we pay the check for one more round at the great American smorgasbord; eat as much as you want, no doggie bags, kids eat for free. And while we have all year to do it, this is the one day where we’re pretty much forced to examine our financial lives.
Now I certainly hope that most of you have your taxes filed by now. If you’re lucky, you’ve already started to get your state or federal returns. But before you take the deep breath and prepare to burrow in for another long year of fiscal hibernation, I think you owe it to yourself and your family to examine things just one more time.
A little over a year ago, I wrote an article (Resolutions Revisited) in which I challenged you to make 2007 the “beginning of the end of your personal debt.” Well, I’m certainly not going to go through your accounts like the IRS, but I am curious as to how well you’ve done, or if you’ve even done anything.
I realize that this past year was riddled with potential pitfalls, as the economy seems to teeter on the brink of recession, the dollar falls, gas prices climb, and the housing market seems less stable than Britney Spears’ career. However, there’s always an excuse out there if you look for it. And, call me cold if you must, but even if it wasn’t all your fault, it is still your responsibility.
I’m not here to judge, I know how hard it is to climb out of the pit of personal debt. I’d love to tell you that my family is paid in full, but you know I’d be lying. I’m not here for any of that, but I am here to encourage you again. Maybe the past year didn’t go your way, but I can honestly tell you, regardless of where you are, there is hope and you can reach your goal. That’s not to say it will be effortless or without sacrifice and self-control, but it can be done, and it is very much worth it.
As a reminder, even carrying a few thousand dollars of debt on a credit card with an average interest rate means that you’re literally throwing away a buck or two every day of the year. Imagine, getting out of bed, brushing your teeth, getting dressed, and then taking a couple of bucks out of your wallet or purse and throwing them in the garbage. Sounds rather silly, but it’s exactly what’s happening.
So, when that refund check, or economic stimulus check comes your way this year, you might want to think twice about what you spend it on. You can choose to buy new stuff today, but you’re probably better served paying for the stuff you bought yesterday.
And while we’re on the topic of fiscal responsibility, here’s a little more information to add to the discussion. The group Citizens Against Government Waste has released its “2008 Congressional Pig Book Summary”, which details most of the pork barrel spending that’s been going on with our tax dollars. This year’s report lists just a portion of the 11,610 projects that were added to appropriations bills worth more than $17 billion. While you might be able to make arguments for some of the spending, keep in mind that all of the projects described meet at least one (if not more) of the following criteria:
Requested by only one chamber of Congress,
Not specifically authorized,
Not competitively awarded,
Not requested by the President,
Greatly exceeds the President’s budget request or the previous year’s funding,
Not the subject of congressional hearings, or
Serves only a local or special interest.
While I suggest that you check out the full report at www.cagw.org, I thought I would share some of my personal favorites.
Several Congressmen inserted close to twenty million dollars in funding for presidential libraries. This includes $8 million for the John F. Kennedy Library, $7.43 million for the Richard Nixon Library, and $3.76 million for the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library. Keep in mind that these libraries already receive annual operating subsidies through the National Archives and Records Administration.
There’s a $196,000 appropriation to help the city of Las Vegas complete the renovation of the downtown Post Office into a museum on local history. Apparently what “Stays in Vegas” isn’t quite enough to keep their tourism trade afloat. The wife and I were really stuck on several different vacation destinations, but I must say, a museum on the history of Las Vegas is pretty high on my "bucket list".
And my personal favorite: close to two million dollars was set aside by Rep. Charles Rangel for the (you guessed it) Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service. Apparently generosity is much easier when it’s not your money you’re handing out.
While we mark Tax Day as a moment to reflect on the money we have, perhaps we might also want to spend a little more time watching the money that didn’t make it into our wallet as well.