A few days ago Kristin and I filed our taxes like the good, upstanding citizens we are. For the first time in several years, we are getting a refund. And since the cat is out of the bag regarding our expanding family, I am optimistic about many more years of refunds to come.
Since prior to this year I’ve owed additional money to the government, which feels akin to buying groceries all year and then having the grocery store come back to you at year end and tell you you’re short (which makes you want to say, “Really, fuckers?!”), I frequently thought about the role of government in our lives. Getting money back this year has been such a pleasant surprise, I’ve had no such thoughts, and I think it’s because I’m secretly worried that if I consider it too long, they’ll get wise to it and end up cancelling the refund. Stay out of my head, NSA!
And, truthfully, considering the heat of my day job, I generally don’t like things to get too political around here. Yet the weight of Tax Day, and all it means, probably causes more civic thinking than any other day besides Election Day. So here are a few random thoughts about Tax Day, submitted for your pleasure and/or amusement.
1. First, just to clarify, I don’t actually submit my own taxes. I have never done my own taxes. When I was in college, my dad did them for me. Once I was finally out of college, I remember it was March of 2007 and I was panicked because I didn’t know what to do and was too lazy or helpless to consider figuring it out. This is sort of odd behavior for me considering I learned HTML one morning freshman year of college just because I felt like it.
Regardless, I definitely wasn’t going to learn how to do my taxes, so I asked the accountant from my job at the time (who also freelanced on the side) if she would do them. She charged me $50, and got me a fatty refund. She’s done them ever since.
2. I probably should do my own taxes, but after experiencing the monotony of arcane corporate bureaucracy and reporting, I’ve lost my appetite for ceaselessly evolving minutiae and cannot will myself to care enough to learn. I like paying someone else – a person who specializes in ONLY this, no less – to understand it for me, and work to get me the best deal. She’s a lovely person, to boot.
3. The older I get, the harder I seem to charge to the middle politically. Nothing is as simple as it seems, and I’ve always been leery of people in matching t-shirts, so subscribing to one party exclusively over another makes me nervous. The Liberal Pinko Commie side of me feels patriotic paying taxes because I like the idea of chipping in and working together for the greater good and creating a society, of which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The Libertarian Free Market Capitalist Douche Bag side of me gets annoyed when the people in charge fritter our money away either through inefficiency or on shit that doesn’t matter.
4. From a process standpoint, I would never argue that business is more efficient than government. Working for either one, you’ll see inefficiencies, equal parts unnecessary bloat and woeful undercapitalization, and suffocating amounts of red tape. But in terms of delivery of good and services needed by the American public, business generally kicks the holy living dogshit out of government.
5. Which I guess is just a roundabout way of saying that on April 15, you always hear a lot of grumbling from people when they file their taxes. I suspect you’d hear less of that if we all had greater confidence that government wasn’t wasting our money. We all feel like we pay a lot of money, and we do, but it often appears like it’s being pissed away.
6. The only time people bitch about money (or anything really) is when they feel they’re not getting adequate value for what they invested. I waited for about 35 minutes to renew my license tags at the DMV a couple of weeks ago, and you would have thought it was a convention of serial killers based on the looks on everyone’s face. Put everyone in line for the fucking Matterhorn, totally different story and set of expressions. People felt like their time was being wasted, and that annoyed them. I used the opportunity to listen to Christopher Lloyd on The Nerdist. I was fine.
Same deal with our taxes. I paid more than $3,000 two years ago, and I felt like I was shot in the kneecaps. Why? I was convinced the government would waste it. I’d gladly pay that and more every year, if I felt like it was going to be put to good use.
7. We recently installed a tankless water heater and air conditioning in our home. This cost several thousand dollars to complete. It’s not even hot out yet, and I already haven’t thought twice about spending that money. That’s a value proposition.
8. And while I don’t believe changing the amount of government we have is the right answer (less is not the answer, and more certainly isn’t either), I sort of wish we could start over and figure out how much money we have, what goods and services we want the government to provide, and then budget accordingly. I have to live within a budget in my own life, so why can’t the government (the Libertarian Free Market Capitalist Douche Bag side)? It should, but the system is rigged which means the answer isn’t that simple and what we can do together is much greater than what each of us can do individually (the Liberal Pinko Commie side).
Happy Tax Day, everyone.