Gary Anderson

Gary Anderson

I did OK doing my taxes this year.

I say that meaning in regard to the physical toll exacted in that effort rather than the amount of a refund I hope to be reunited with. Usually my back goes out somewhere along the way of gathering all that’s needed for the paperwork and undergoing the rigors of comprehending and completing the forms. There’s something about the process that typically brings about the feeling that someone’s sticking a knife in my back just below and between the shoulder blades. Eventually, the lower back joins in.

For whatever reason, most of that stress took a holiday this time around. I won’t go so far as to say I enjoyed paying my taxes this year, but I definitely found its dreaded exercise in hoop jumping far less insufferable. Maybe it’s because I filed somewhat earlier than in the recent past and thereby not so subject to being under the gun of a looming April deadline.

Usually that would be the 15th of April. This year it falls on the 18th because the 15th is a Saturday and Emancipation Day, usually celebrated on the 16th, will be observed on Monday, giving those that really, really hate paying taxes an extra three days to postpone compliance. The observation that history has Emancipation Day normally falling on the day after Tax Day remains an ironic punch line in search of a joke. More ironic still, Emancipation Day is a D.C. holiday and D.C. still hasn’t the equal representation of statehood, making a complete joke out of the notion prohibiting taxation without representation. Steeped in its original Tea Party birth here in New England, Patriot’s Day’s coincidental celebration on the 17th provides its own local holiday reprieve from the scourge of taxation.

For many, taxes are no laughing matter. Taxes are the bane of their existence. Benjamin Franklin famously held the view that, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” For our founding fathers, taxes were the major bone of contention leading to an armed revolt that set America free from economic servitude to British rule. A hatred for paying taxes couldn’t be more American. Then again, the same could be said for the tolerance of slavery. The Emancipation Day-Tax Day joke becomes even more humor challenged when one acknowledges that self-interested economic fear of a fundamental redistribution of wealth was the far less noble cause of the Civil War. Slavery was the ultimate minimum wage.

I well remember a prominent surgeon suddenly remarking, completely out of the blue during a major operation, how that day, somewhere close to April 15, was the day he would finally be actually getting paid. By his calculation, up to then that year’s earnings would be going to taxes and whatever he earned for the remainder of the year would now be his. I guess he wanted the hourly waged surgical staff to share in his economically oppressed outrage. All I could think of was how I wouldn’t mind suffering his tax difficulties.

It is said that money makes the world go round.

It’s said that money is the root of all evil.

What is seldom expressed is that taxation is the glue that holds government together. Government is the contract we make with each other. Our democratic governance may not be perfect but, as Winston Churchill pointed out, it’s better than the other forms tried so far.

Some say that you get what you pay for.

Of course, that argument doesn’t hold with the actual reality of our government’s financing. Somewhere between what we want of government and the bill demanded is the chump change trickled down to actual job creation and infrastructure improvement; to education, healthcare, environmental protection and everything else politicians promise but rarely deliver.

The Defense Department has never, ever had an audit. It costs taxpayers $3M to protect each of President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago indulgences. What’s not to like?

What I liked a whole lot better was a time when the difference between those that have more than they can ever spend and those that can barely get by wasn’t so immorally stark. Those were the good old days when the rich were taxed at 70% or higher.

It’s often said that Maine taxes are intolerably high even though the “effective total state and local tax rate on a median household” this year ranks Maine at 33 from least taxed to most, or 11.63%. Those that voice such complaint always seem to be ideologically in the camp of those that can best afford necessary contribution to the common good.

If I ever manage to file on an income in excess of $200,000 I’d be happy to suffer an additional 3% tax rate, especially if earmarked for education.

If raising taxes on the wealthy or raising the subminimum wage so prohibits dining out as to bring about a mass exodus from our state then so be it. For myself, living here has always been a costly economic choice, but without reservation it remains the best investment I’ve ever made.

Gary Anderson lives in Bath.

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