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Anno Domini: Rendering unto Caesar and other nightmares
April 14, 2011 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
What happens when the old expression “paying through the nose” gets taken to the next level? Residents of Omaha recently found out when Jim Suttle, their almost recalled tax-and-spend mayor, unrolled the idea for a federal tax of 10 cents on every roll of toilet paper you buy.

So for a standard 500-sheet roll, that would be a tax of .0002 cents per sheet.
Like columnist Dave Berry is fond of writing: “I’m not making this stuff up.”

Speaking at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, Suttle said a toilet paper tax could help cities pay for all those pricey sewer projects mandated by the feds. Omaha’s project would cost about $1.7 billion and must be done by 2024. Of course, the longer they wait, the more it will cost.

Just think, if this passes, we’ll all be paying out the … well, it would cost us a lot more to squeeze the Charmin. Sorry, Mr. Whipple, but the government wants to squeeze the taxpayers instead.

Suttle’s attitude kind of reminds me of “Taxman,” an old Beatles song: “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.” That, in part, is why a lot of Omaha residents tried to recall him.

So I’m writing this in part to remind the procrastinator that tomorrow is the deadline to file your 2010 taxes. I suppose April 15 is a better day than the original tax day of March 15, when both Julius Caesar and the American taxpayer had to beware the Ides of March. But the new date only postponed when the taxpayer, like Julius Caesar, would be carved up.

A friend of mine takes a more philosophical view. In mid-April, at least the weather is warming up at about the same time the IRS is taking the shirt off your back.
I’m not necessarily against taxation. It’s needed to keep the country running. But somewhere back into the past, the system ran off the rails in a big way.

Here’s a for instance. When the income tax was instituted, employees would get 100 percent of their salary every payday, as employers didn’t withhold deductions. Then at the end of the year, taxpayers had to figure out how much tax they owed and pay the government.

Then World War II started. The government needed a regular cash flow to pay for the war effort, so it instituted a system where employers withheld taxes from their employees’ paychecks.

The government assured us that after the war, those changes would be discontinued and people would again go back to paying their own tax burden.

But something happened during those years. Politicians realized that people started thinking in terms of take-home pay and stopped thinking about how much was being withheld for taxes.

That ignorance led to a politician’s dream – the cover for higher taxes and more spending.

I can see why politicians don’t want to go back to the old system. With no withholding, people would realize just how much of their hard earned labor goes to government. Hey, they might even get honked off enough to give the tax-and-spenders the boot in the next election.

Of course, that’s what’s happening now. The spending got so egregious the numbers could no longer be hidden. You know there’s a problem when the nation is carrying more debt that the combined worth of the entire planet.

How do we get out from under such a burden? Today’s progressives would say we should tax the rich, although the top five percent of taxpayers already pay more of the tax burden then the other 95 percent.

The federal income tax was amended into the Constitution in 1913. Politicians said it would be fairer than tariffs and easier for Congress to administer. It was also simple in design and the rates were low. In fact, the first tax form was one page and was so simple, anyone could fill it out.

For example, anyone making less than $20,000 paid no income tax. Earners in the $20,000 to $50,000 bracket paid one percent. Each higher bracket was an additional one percent. The top bracket, for those who made more than $500,000 a year, was six percent. And everyone got a $3,000 personal deduction on top of that.

To put things in perspective, a steak cost a quarter in 1920. A man’s suit was $20. And you could buy Ford Model T for just under $600.

But the cancerous ideology of progressivism was big in the early 20th Century. And what progressives envisioned for the income tax was exactly what it became – a tool for income redistribution and social engineering. Legislators started using the tax code for punishments and rewards and for their own pet projects. Today we call them “earmarks.”

We all know about the multi-volume nightmare that makes up today’s tax code. It’s a far cry from 1913’s one page.

I keep hearing about some form of “flat tax” or “fair tax,” but I doubt whether something like that would ever be enacted. Politicians have a vested interest in keeping things the way they are for the groundlings, all us common folk who don’t know what’s best for us and can’t manage our own lives without government meddling, er, assistance.

As we render unto Caesar, I’ll ask that well-worn question from the commercials: “What’s in your wallet?” For me, the answer is … dust. That and a multi-trillion dollar IOC (IO China) that our great-great-grandchildren will still be trying to pay off. That is, if the nation doesn’t go bankrupt in the meantime.

I couldn’t have said it better than a picture of a small boy with a big “O” presidential emblem on his T-shirt. The caption reads: “Sorry, kid, but we blew through your entire life’s earnings before you were born. Don’t get sick, OK?”
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