Saturday, September 22, 2012

Droning On

 Your tax dollars at work

I merely go off for a couple of weeks to Utah to ride my bicycle and harry the local trout, when upon my return to the "news cycle" and to Western Civilization, I learn to my horror that one of our embassies has gone missing and that Willard Romney has consigned me and my ilk to a sizeable 47 percent blot on the national ethos. I can't go off recreating in one of the underdeveloped countries, it would seem, before this little slice of the First World slides into a chaos at once murderous and libellous.

Frankly, I'm a little surprised that Willard would draw attention to anyone not paying taxes since his own largesse vis-a-vis the feds is currently under public scrutiny. Not to mention that, in tax data from the last round of income tax returns, 78,000 tax filers with incomes between $211,000 and $533,000 paid no income taxes; 24,000 households with incomes of $533,000 to $2.2 million paid no income taxes, and 3,000 tax filers with incomes above $2.2 million paid no income taxes.

And then, of course, there are the people with incomes insufficient to be taxed - the sort of people who used to work for companies taken over by hedge fund managers, for example. According to 2011 data from the Tax Policy Center, more than half of filers not paying income taxes are those earning less than $16,800 per year. Another third of those paying no income taxes earn less than $33,500, an additional 13 percent earn under $59,500. In other words, the growing numbers of the lowest earners, who still pay standard payroll, sales and other taxes even if they don't pay withholding taxes on their incomes.

Actually, I find myself in a rather awkward position when it comes to paying federal tax. I am about to become one of the grateful beneficiaries of the American socialist dream, and I'm all in favor of it, especially the socialist part. This month commences the first of my endless stream of bulging, unmerited Social Security checks.
 Socialist Security Administration

I'm still fortunate enough to owe federal income tax each year, unlike many of my contemporaries whose government checks are pretty much all they have after the likes of Bernie Madoff, AIG, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Citigroup swept up the loose change like bums on a pavement. I'm going to be raking it in compared with some of my less fortunate compeers. In fact, I plan to stash a lot of the overload under my bed, which I've named "Little Cayman" after one of the high-profile tax shelters Willard uses.

Little Cayman

Which, as I see it, puts me in something of a moral quandary and gives me sqeamish feelings in the wee hours of the night when I lie awake and listen to my teeth decay. I am now one of the Internal Revenue Service's recurring money loops - I get a check from the government each month and then give part of it back. This system presumably keeps the government solvent, not without considerable help from the Chinese. Eventually, I suppose, the U.S. will qualify for World Bank and International Monetary Fund assistance as an underdeveloped nation, but until that time, I and my fellow 53-percenters are all the country has to fall back on for its fiduciary health.

The problem for me is that I feel somewhat complicit in the recent Libyan debacle and the murder of four of my compatriots, since I'm certain that I paid for at least one drone missile strike in my IRS returns for last year. Just a hunch, mind you, but the thought nags me. It's all well to say that an amateurish video propelled those crazy Libyans into a spontaneous uproar, whereupon they all went home and fished out their rocket-propelled grenade launchers and heavy artillery from the coat closet and returned to level the embassy. But I suspect the whole episode was a bit more organized and less warm-blooded than a campaigning presidential incumbent would wish the voting public to imagine. No, I'm guessing it was one too many drone strikes by some guys sitting in a windowless room in Syracuse playing with a joystick.

I can't get over the nagging sense that I'm helping to defray the costs of obliterating refugee camps, Afghan wedding parties, convoys of innocent villagers, farmers who appear to be planting IEDs by merely digging in the dirt - anyone, in short, who happens to be in the wrong place looking suspicious to an 18-year-old video game genius with a GED certificate and a security clearance. 

Eventually, I suppose, they'll all learn to be grateful, but until then we'll just have to defend freedom around the world with no thanks at all. 

One we missed

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