Sunday, February 25, 2007

Taxing Our Patience

In January of 2006, the New York Times reported that everyone’s favorite agency, the IRS, withheld refunds to our poorest Americans by labeling the refunds as fraudulent. In reality, these poor folks were guilty of no crime, although today, poverty seems to be one. In spite of their dire circumstances, the IRS didn’t return their money, or even inform them that anything was wrong. No information, no money, no justice.

So let’s call this what it is, an agency without a soul. The IRS, preying on legitimate citizens, people with no resources, who may not know any better and certainly do not or have the resources to defend themselves.

It isn’t enough that the deck is stacked against those without. The privileged get special tax treatment of dividend income, of capital gains. The average Joe gets new restrictions on bankruptcy protection. The super-rich battle for the elimination of the estate tax. While pensions for the working man are frozen or terminated, golden parachutes float insiders to lofty landings. The military industrial complex is alive and well, government influence is for sale.

The money is distributed without paper trail. When 8.5 billion dollars disappears (yes, that’s a “b”, folks), when stacks of 100’s are loaded on palettes onto C-130 transport planes bound for Iraq, and public funds go completely unaccounted for, we are hardly surprised. The event causes not a ripple, not a whimper. The silence is deafening.

This is what we have come to expect. There will be much for some, almost nothing for so many. So when tax refunds are frozen, affecting 1.6 million taxpayers with an average income of $13,000, we are not outraged.

In the 1950’s, a visionary man named John Kenneth Galbraith wrote of what we have now become, a society where the wealthy struggle to think of what they do not already have, while millions go hungry. He wrote of a society of opulence, with a widespread lack of essential services. Schools are under-funded and underperforming, banking services are non-existent. The trickle down theory was no more than that.

We are inevitably moving towards Galbraith’s dream, of a different race of men, with a different set of priorities, a different set of values and a different definition of success.

We have created all that we see. Open the news of the day. We are individually and collectively responsible. When put in a position of power, more often than not we use that power to our personal advantage. We consider those that do not to be remarkable.

We cannot expect of others what we do not demand of ourselves.

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