Its a (Not So Wonderful) Tax-Free Life

Dadgum government! What do I owe them? So I skimped a little on my taxes over the years. What of it? Theyd just waste it! And what they didnt waste themselves, theyd go spend on a bunch of people whod go waste it even worse. Handouts, always handouts! Theres always more for the unproductive. And its just my luck, the one thing they do efficiently is come after me! Me, a self-made citizen! I never asked for a thing. Everything I made, I made myself. My mistake was giving them anything. I wish Id never paid a dime in taxes!

Hows that again?

Wh-wh-who are you?

Names Clarence. Now what were you saying?

I said I wish there was no such thing as taxes!

Hmmm. Gabriel, what do you say? YesyesMy thought exactly. Okay, George. Done!


You got your wish. No taxes. Every penny you ever made is in your pocket.

Yeah, tell that to the IRS.

What IRS? There is no IRS!

Wha-wh-wh-what is this? Y-y-y-youre screwy, thats what I think!

Oh, yes, yes. Screwy. Im plenty screwy. Youre going to find lots of things screwy, I suspect. Oh. Look above you, George.

What, what?

I said look above you.

What? Theres nothing there.


He the bridge! Wheres the bridge? Theres a bridge up there! A big, beautiful six-lane bridge, the Veterans Memorial Bridge! I was there at the dedication with my father when I was a boy!

That bridge collapsed, George. 2031. Terrible thing it was. Seventeen people died. Four children.

Collapsed? Wh-whatre you talking about? I drove across it twice Tuesday!

There wasnt any money in the Highway Trust Fund to maintain it. Fell into disrepair. Then one day boom. Wasnt any money to rebuild. Highways been closed ever since.

Thats ridiculous.

Yes. A lot of people thought so.

I dont know whats goin on here.

No, no. Im quite sure you dont.

And hey, wh-whats that sign there, whats that sign, by the river? Sayssays no fishing, no swimming! Thats a lie! I fish here most Sundays! Bring my grandkids down for a swim, too!

Oh, no, you dont, George. Hasnt been fishing or swimming in this river for a good long time.

Whaddya mean, that rivers as clean as

It was, George. It was. But it hasnt been for years, accounta that pharmaceutical factory upriver. And there wasnt any money to clean it up.

BahhhhYoure, youre playin games with me. Cmon, lets go, lets go downtown.

Very well, lets go.

Hey, whatwhats that? Whats going on here?

What do you mean?

That land there, that bulldozed land. Thats where the college is! What are you tryin to do to me?

Theres no college there anymore, George. It closed.

Whaddya mean it closed? Colleges dont just close!

Oh, sometimes they do, George. A lot of them have, in fact. No money.

Well, at least the hospitals still there!

Oh, yes, its there, but its about half the hospital you knew. No cancer ward, no dialysis treatments, no long-term elderly care, no"

Hey! Wait a second! Whats that sign? Welcome to Norquistville? This is Medford Falls! Whats Norquistville? Whos Norquist?

Oh, hes a man, its not important. But there are a lot of Norquistvilles these days. Keep driving.

Driving? Were sitting in a parking lot. Where the heck did all this traffic come from, Medford Falls never had this kind of traffic!

Well, once the highway closed

Yeah, yeah, the highway, right, the highway. Hey, I know! Lets ditch this car and take the light rail.

George, theres no light rail!

Whaddya mean no light rail? That light rail system was the pride of this town!

Yes. It was.

Everybody loved the way it went right inside the civic center!

Yes, everybody did. But theres no light rail, George, and theres no civic center for the light rail line to go into.

Youre, youreyoure makin me see thingsHey! Thatthats the library! Itsits boarded up! They boarded up the library?

Thats right, George. Three years ago. Private money kept it going for a good long while. A library is a source of town pride, after all. Good to know thats still true. But it was losing around $2 million a year. After a while, no one wanted to cover it.

BaahhhHey! That building! Thats Tom Kirkendalls business! Now you cant tell me thats gone under! Toms a private businessman! Were in the Rotary Club together, hes the sergeant at arms! And I do a lot of business with Tom!

Tom ran a private business, George, yes. But close to half his business was contracts with the federal government. Department of Energy, mostly. There hasnt been a Department of Energy since 2027. And your business hasnt done business with his since then.

So hows he

Oh, hesokay. His son owns a chain of fast food places. Theyvewhats the word?proliferated, I believe. The sons doing fine. Tom lives with him now. Gets by. If I must tell you, though: Leans a little hard on the bottle, poor man.

Tom?! Wellhe shouldget help!

Tch. Youre not getting this, George, are you?

Hey, wait a second, thats the senior center! My mother loves that senior center! She goes there every Thursday, plays canasta with Mrs. Everly!

Yes, George, that was the senior center. Closed years ago.

Whaddya mean it clohe-eyhows my mother? WHERES MY MOTHER?

Oh, shesshes

Shes what? WHAT???

Wellshes alive. I can tell you that, George. Shes alive.

But shes okay? Shes OKAY??!

Well, George, she is 87, you know. And she was costing, oh, lets see, Im rather bad with numbers, Im afraid, but I think it was something like, oh, $164,000 a year. And she was somewhatwhats that word of yours? Ah yes. Unproductive. So certaindecisionshad to be made. Its a shame. It wasnt that expensive a procedure, but once they changed Medicare, it became a bit, well, difficult to justify, and fewer surgeons were participating in Medicare, and the waiting period was rather long, and


Shes at your house, George. Of course, most days, she doesnt recognize you. Needs round-the-clock care. Costing you a pretty penny.

Round the"

But look. Consider yourself lucky. Youve saved all those tax dollars! You have the money to care for her!

I-I-I-I think this whole things a fib! The bridge, the river, the college, the light rail and the civic center, the library, Toms business, the senior center, my mothery-y-y-youre one of those fake-news people, thats what!

Oh dear, yes, fake news. Dja hear that, Gabriel? Were fake news! Truth is, George, Ive barely scratched the half of it. The rest is lessvisual. But the worse school lunches, the end of free childrens health insurance, the asthma, the lead poisoning

My little parable doesnt end the way the movie did, with George sobbing to Clarence take me back. That was Hollywood. In the real world, men of George Raileys convictions dont change their minds easily.

If the Republicans have their way, this venal tax bill is stage one an unprecedented assault on the commons. The idea, as I have written and as Paul Ryan has all but said, is to build up huge deficits (likely bigger than the stated $1.5 trillion) and then use those deficits as the excuse for going after Medicare, Medicaid, and welfare, because, you know, those people have it too easy and spending on such things is evil and produces people with dependent tendencies. This is on top of all the other cuts that have been stripping our public life to the bone.

So as you drive around your town over the holidays, imagine it without the things built and maintained with tax dollars. Wipe them off the landscape in your mind one by one, as if in a movie, as you drive past them, and think about what life would be like without those things.

If you did some research, youd be surprised at what will disappear. Parks, airports, and even things you assume are private like hotel-conference centers were often built at least in part with federal money. Go read about the projects that were financed by the Build America Bonds in the hated Obama stimulus bill. Thousands of projects. And thats just one program out of hundreds.

Those programs answer public needs that you cant fix with your tax cut and that private enterprise wont undertakeno matter how big their tax cut.

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