HAPPY TAX DAY!

So this year I was molested more than ever before. Hooray for success!

I’ve got two sources of income. By day, I’m the finance manager for a defense contractor. Like most of you I do the whole withholding thing where they, oh so very subtly, yank a small portion of my paycheck. (more on that later) By night, I’m a professional novelist, which means that I’m an independent contractor who has to calculate and send quarterly withholding payments myself. The last one I sent for the year literally made me tear up.  I  had to send the government a check for more money than my total income for any year of my life up until the age of twenty-three. (for one quarter) Oh, but my calculations were a teensy bit off, so this week, I had the opportunity to send them enough money to purchase a decent used car.   

Because, you know, I had absolutely nothing better to do with that money.

So in honor of Tax Day, and as a result of having been exposed to a lot of news lately because I’ve been home sick, I’d like to talk about our nation’s current budget issues. You see, we face difficult times, and our noble president says that we are just going to need to give up just a little more.

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME, YOU STUPID LYING GREEDY SACK OF CRAP?

Government can’t balance a checkbook. They’re idiots. I know finance math. I do it for a living. And when I look at the numbers involved here, (and the interest!) it makes my head swim. Okay, for you non-accountants, when they start bandying numbers about on the news of 4 trillion such and such, and a hundred billion this and that, I know that your eyes glaze over. You think to yourself, “Oh, it is just the same old same old, bunch of politicians spending too much money, blah blah blah.” 

NOOOOO!

Saying that this is the same old same old, is like saying that gophers digging up your lawn is the same level of disaster as Krakatoa. Over the last couple of years we’ve reached a whole new level of crazy. Our spending has gone insane. We’re spending more money, faster, than all of mankind, throughout all of recorded human history. Economists aren’t sure what’s going to happen, because this has never happened before. Ever. On Earth. We’ve strayed into strange new territory here and there are many possible outcomes if we don’t stray the hell back out. And don’t for a second think that any of those possible outcomes are remotely good. No. They range somewhere between the Great Depression and Mad Max.

The government almost shut down last week over cutting 38 billion dollars… That may sound like a lot, but comparatively speaking, that’s like a 600 pound man who’s heart is about to explode congratulating himself that he got a hamburger instead of a cheeseburger… for his fifty-seventh meal of the day. Republicans backed off because they didn’t think they could win the PR battle. Let’s see… the Democrats were willing to not pay soldiers, currently fighting three wars, in order to ensure funding for abortion clinics… And you didn’t think you could win that PR fight? Seriously? Have you ever thought about maybe hiring a marketing major? I know a guy….

Oh, and don’t get all, “Well, Planned Parenthood (or NPR, or grants for African Genital Washing studies, or whatever the hell your stupid cause is) only gets a fraction of half a mili-percent of its budget from the government!  So. F’ing. What… Those are my dollars. Why should they get ANY?   

Every time there is a discussion about cutting some government program, people line up to whine about how that cut is going to hurt somebody. Then you get the sob stories… So we never cut anything. Guess what? They’re not called Budget Pillows or Budget Tickles. They’re Budget CUTS. Cuts are supposed to HURT.

I had a discussion the other day with some relatively intelligent folks about social security. The idea of cutting benefits or moving the retirement age shocks them. “How unfair! But I’ve paid into this my whole life!”

Yep. You sure did. You got lied to and screwed over by evil political opportunists. Deal with it. I’m just shy of 40. I know that I’m not ever going to see a dime of any of the money I paid into Social Security.  FDR’s pet program was garbage when the average old person died a couple of years after retirement and the ratio of workers to retirees was 40 to 1.  How in the hell is it supposed to work when retirees are expected to live for TWENTY YEARS and there’s only a handful of people paying in for every one getting a check?

It doesn’t work. No matter how hard you wish, no matter how hard you hope, no matter how much compassion you can fit in your stupid compassionate heart, no matter how much you happen to like some program that helps somebody do something wonderful… math never lies and interest never sleeps. Caring don’t pay the bills.

On Social Security (because it is the gigantic stinky gorilla in the room) Okay, let’s talk about that little withholding bit first because lots of people still don’t realize this. I got into an argument with somebody the other day about social security, and he actually told me, “I don’t mind them taking out that money. I wouldn’t bother to save it. Plus, it isn’t really that much so I don’t notice it.”

IDIOT.

You’ve probably been seeing 6.2% of your check taken for SS and 1.45% for Medicare (not even going to get into FUTA and SUTA).  What most folks don’t realize is that your employer matches that… So basically you could get a 16% raise tomorrow if it wasn’t for that withholding.  “Oh, but that’s saving for my retirement!”  Bull crap. I could take 16% of my salary, use it to store canned food, and I’d come out ahead of what I’m actually going to get from the government for my retirement. The money that’s been paid in already is long gone, because expecting congress to save money is like expecting crack whores to save crack.  

Basically, if you’re not already old, and you’re counting on seeing money from Social Security, you’re a sucker.

Moving on to all the other stupid taxes, the latest thing I’m hearing is for us to tax corporations more. If only those darn evil corporations were paying their fair share! That’ll solve everything! GE didn’t pay any taxes! Google hardly paid any taxes! They’re using those evil loopholes! People tend to think of “loopholes” as some sort of nefarious trick that only rich people know how to use to sneak out of paying their “fair” share. (rich guys are taught about loop holes at the same time they’re taught the secret rich guy handshake). 

I used to think that way too. That’s how most Americans have been programmed to think of them. Until I took a tax class in college taught by a very sharp tax accountant. Loopholes aren’t secrets. They’re tax code. They’re laws that have been passed, by congress, in order to encourage some sort of behavior. Regular people deduct their mortgage interest. Hell, Married Filing Jointly is considered a loophole to some people.

If congress passes a tax break to encourage some behavior, and a corporation or an individual didn’t take advantage of it, they’d be stupid or failing their shareholders. Don’t get mad at the corporations or the tax accountants. Get mad at congress for decades of nonsensical regulations passed until the tax code is so convoluted that there is literally no right answer.

A long time ago, some university did a test. They made up a fictitious family of 5, gave them dual income, some investments, some rental property, and a few other little things, nothing too weird or complicated, and then had 150 different CPAs, tax accounting companies, and even tax software packages prepare this family’s returns. They got 150 different answers. All of they were equally arguable as being correct. All of them were equally auditable and capable of being wrong What does that tell you about the complexity of the tax code?

GE didn’t pay any taxes because of all the special regulations that have been passed to push the whole Green Energy nonsense. (Oh, don’t even get me started on stupid ethanol. I went from 35 to 27 mpg when they started adding corn and rainbows to my gas)  If they stick it to corporations even harder, it is going to hurt all of the little normal companies that all of us work for, as opposed to the giants that can suck up directly to the president.

You want to boost the economy? Lower corporate taxes. You want to increase investment? Lower the capital gains tax. You don’t want corporations to flee America to move their operations overseas? Quit raping them! We’ve got one of the highest effective business taxes on the planet, and that’s before you factor in the expense of having to answer to fifty different agencies that can come in and audit and fine you.  Personally, I’ve spent about 30% of my professional accounting life just answering to the whims of various audit agencies, and people like me don’t come cheap.

But no matter how screwed up our tax code is, and even if we suddenly had a sensible tax code tomorrow, we’d still be in deep trouble, because the government is spending too damn much.

“Well, Correia. You’re one of those heartless republicans! George Bush spent lots of money too! Tarp! TARP!”

Yes. And he was WRONG. (and oh how quickly we forget who controlled congress for most of that spending) Terribly, awfully wrong. And the country-club, big government republican establishment is wrong. Government isn’t the solution, it is the problem. McCain sucked. Romney sucks. Anybody who doesn’t grasp the dangers of big government sucks. But that said, if your justification for Obama’s spending lunacy is that the last guy was doing something wrong, you don’t do the same damn thing, only FIVE TIMES bigger and TWICE AS FAST. 

We need to cut, cut, cut, and then cut some more. Nothing should be sacred. Nothing should be off the table.  According to the Wall Street Journal, more Americans work for the government now than in construction, farming, fishing, forestry, manufacturing, mining, and utilities COMBINED.  

How in the hell is that sustainable? How in the hell is that acceptable?

The problem isn’t that we don’t pay enough in taxes, the problem is that the government is too damn big. They meddle in every facet of our lives from before we’re born until after we die.

I think Paul Ryan’s budget sounds like a great start. Cut. Cut. Cut. Take a chainsaw to federal spending. Even the things that I happen to like, like having a strong national defense… I’m pretty darn sure we can find some waste and useless projects in there. Do we really need more admirals than we have ships? Cut!

We’re almost done in Iraq. So long. We don’t have a plan in Afghanistan and that country can’t pull its head out of its own butt. I say we bail and turn half the country over to the Gurkhas and the other half over to the Poles.  Rules of engagement? He he he… Why do we still have so many troops stationed in Germany? So that Europe can gut their own defense to pay for absurd social programs because they know they’re safe as long as we’re there to protect them. Nope. Bye Europe. Sorry, England. You may have to double your air force and buy another three planes.

And I’m saying this to my own side. Yep, there are plenty of strategic reasons, but if you can’t afford to be world cop, you can’t afford to be world cop. Cuts are supposed to hurt. The lefties don’t get to subsidize electric cars and we don’t get to leave the 82nd Airborne in South Korea. Come home.  

(and oh, the hypocrisy from the left… No war for oil! Unless of course it is French oil in Libya, then it’s totally cool.  Abu Ghirab was directly George Bush’s fault! Murder squad in Afghanistan recently? Crickets. A few years ago we accidently bomb civilians. Impeach Baby-Killer Bush! We accidentally bomb civilians this month and hey, that’s cool. Accidents happen during Kinetic Military Actions.  And WTF is a Kinetic Military Action?)

That said, I’d rather have another squadron of F-22s than the entire Department of Education. At least air superiority is useful. What has the DoE done for you lately? Hell, ever? Cut! Can anybody tell me what Health and Human Services does? It alone is bigger than LBJ’s entire government. Boom. Cut!  TSA? Ha! Are you kidding me? CUT!  Department of Energy was supposed to get us cheap energy… How’s that working out for you?  CUUUT!!

You know what happens when a regular company runs out of money? We have to lay people off. Why is it when our economy sucks and everybody is hurting that our government grows?  Obama raised government salaries to the highest level in our history, and then to show that he understood our pain, he froze salaries… Let me see if I’ve got this right? You raised your salary super high, and FROZE it THERE and now you’re telling me that’s somehow a good thing. Screw you.

Corporate welfare? Gone. We shouldn’t have to pay $10,000 in subsidies for the ridiculous Chevy Volt so that rich urban liberals can assuage their guilt. There is no Too Big To Fail, because somebody smarter than you will come along and buy your assets. Does that hurt your union pension? Cry me a friggin’ river.

No bailing out states. If California wants to have 500 state agencies, spend money like there’s no tomorrow, while driving out all of their productive people and ruining all their businesses, then that should not become the problem of those of us who live in states that aren’t ridiculous.  

Social Security and other entitlements? It is time to start the painful weaning process. Raise the retirement age. Cut the benefits for those of us not already taking it. And then start ending the stupid program. You can’t fix it. You can’t fix something that is so fundamentally and mathematically flawed. It is either start cutting it gradually until it is gone, or wait for the whole thing to implode so that it screws everybody equally. It is morally wrong for me to expect my grandchildren to have to pay my bills just because I got old. 

No more giving money to foreign investments. My part of the country is sitting on more energy than Saudi Arabia but we can’t get to most of it because the government won’t let us. (F%&$ Ken Salazar in his stupid face). Government meddling has ruined the economy of eastern Utah, yet, at the same time we can give billions of dollars to Brazil to help them drill for oil? Are you kidding me?  That’s not an energy policy. That’s national suicide.

So happy Tax Day everybody. I for one am glad that I was able to send the government enough money to ensure ACORN employees are able to house Honduran sex slaves properly, or to pay the gas for Nancy Pelosi’s jet… Sure, if I’d kept that money myself I could have, I don’t know, done something stupid, like knocked 5 years off the back end of my mortgage, or paid for a gigantic chunk of one of my kid’s college education.  But I’m just glad that I was able to do my part!

Merry Tax Day to all, and to all a good night!

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