Just paid my government bill, otherwise known as taxes.
It’s like you go out to dinner at a fancy restaurant, you’re enjoying the filet mignon, the tender lemon-flavored asparagus shoots, and oh my god the creme brulee is to die for! And then the bill comes, someone makes the worn-out quip “what’s the damage” and you stare stupefied at the number wondering how all those perfectly innocent numbers could have added up to such a large number. “I could have made twenty home-cooked meals at that price,” you scold yourself self-righteously, shaken with buyer’s remorse. (No, I am not a shopaholic, but I do have a weakness for a good meal.)
I also have a weakness for good government. And yes, I appreciate that my unemployed friends can stay on their parents health care, that Americorps continues to exist, that birth control is free and that people are getting real(er) about gay marriage. I’m pretty happy with my government. But is it really that expensive? Really?
You know what I want. I want a receipt. In the post-mortem of buyer’s remorse at a fancy restaurant, I’m able to stare at the bill, pondering the tactics of drinks and entrees and sides and desserts, wondering where I could have held back from my hedonistic spree to save a few bucks. But with government, you don’t get that. Sure, you get acknowledge of payment, but the receipt is not ITEMIZED. I want an itemized receipt.
I paid $1645 in state and federal taxes. How much of that went to the US Military? $500? How much went to maintaining the highway system? $300? What about paying government officials salaries? And how much went to pure silliness, like corn syrup and crude oil subsidies? I want to know about the money I’M spending. I want to know if I made a good purchase. Most everything I google on this topic is ideologically biased and oversimplified to the point where it triggers my gag reflex. A few things, however, are pdfs that would break the legs of my desk with their weight if I printed them out. There is no middle ground.
I guess I think about it this way: government is one of the necessities of life, like food. You need it to survive. Just as you’d starve to death without food, without government you’d probably get beheaded by an anarchistic warlord, or die from a tainted water supply, or something. But with food, I get to choose piece by piece how I spend my money. I get to choose whether I want turkey or ham in my sandwich or the “California sandwich” with avocados fancy mustard, and bean sprouts. But government don’t work that way. With government, the whole country votes turkey or ham, and you end up eating ham sandwiches for the next 4-8 years, whether you like it or not.
And why? Why you may ask? Because the government is too big for any one person to put their jaws around, like a sandwich. It’s not a simple purchase. But it should at least be a more transparent one. Short of reading several thousand pages of policy briefs and getting a PhD in public policy, I don’t know how I would cut through the propaganda from both sides to figure out what’s really happening to those nickels and dimes the IRS is currently transferring drop by painful drop from my bank account into their coffers.
Perhaps someday humanity will become so enlightened that we’ll come up with a truly rational system for funding all the projects that are too big for one person or even one company to handle. Until then I guess it’s politics as usual.