Over to YOU

MAY I PLEASE PAY TAXES?

Sure, governments squander some of our money. It’s their job.

LESLEY CHOYCE November 10 2003
Over to YOU

MAY I PLEASE PAY TAXES?

Sure, governments squander some of our money. It’s their job.

LESLEY CHOYCE November 10 2003

MAY I PLEASE PAY TAXES?

Over to YOU

Sure, governments squander some of our money. It’s their job.

LESLEY CHOYCE

I WOULDN’T have broached this tiresome subject if it weren’t for the fact that I hear a lot of people waste a lot of breath bemoaning the paying of taxes. I’d be lying to you if I said I love taxes, but I’ve developed a kind of impervious Buddhist stance when it comes to taxes so that I don’t lose any sleep over them. I free up valuable mental capacity to consider other questions such as: Will the waves be good for surfing tomorrow? Should I get new tires for my car? Or, why do people play golf?

You probably don’t have to pay any taxes if you don’t make any money. If you are poor and lucky enough to live in a country like Sweden, everyone else takes care of you and may even send you to a resort in a sunny country in the winter so you don’t get depressed. The people of Sweden, of course, are very highly taxed, but it is still a nation of beautiful scenery and beautiful men and women and they seem to get on with their Swedish lives just fine on most days, despite heavy taxation.

If you live in the United States, you think you are highly taxed, but you are not. You worry about your rights and freedoms all the time and think the government is wasting your money. It most certainly is, but no one can agree on which part is waste and which part isn’t. Those advanced laser-zapping toilets designed for military operations may seem like a waste to you but it’s money well spent compared to investments in new chemical weapons that could eradicate life on earth if the wind was blowing in the wrong direction.

Some people worry that their hard-earned tax dollars are going to folks on welfare who don’t deserve it. After a couple of beers, they get all worked up on this issue as if they are being cheated and robbed. I expect that some people who are lazy and should be working are on welfare, but this is not high on my list of things to worry about. Most folks on government support probably need the help, and they can have some of my money.

There are a lot worse things than paying taxes. Remember the man without shoes who feels sorry for himself until he meets someone without feet.

So you pay some money and it goes to schools or roads or, if you’re lucky enough to live in the right country, hospitals and health care. Some of it goes to old peopleincluding the ones who didn’t get to be presidents or prime ministers. Some of it gets squandered on political lunches. But now that I’ve wandered this far into this minefield, maybe what I’m saying is that I’m actually in favour of being over-taxed and seeing some of my dollars squandered. Yes, that’s it. I want to pay too much in taxes and I want to see it blown (occasionally) on hightech toilets, research on mutant frogs, flowers along the highway or even diplomatic lunches for Asian dignitaries with food that has to be flown in from Rangoon.

Why am I such a rabid pro-tax advocate?

It’s simple. Every time someone starts to hack away at government waste, they end up cutting the wrong things. It shouldn’t work out this way, but it almost always does. Education, health care, social welfare programs are cut. People get hurt.

We all think we could make better decisions than those in power. Some of us even go the whole nine yards and run for office. (I was actually asked once by one of the big political parties to run for federal office. The phone call came one night while I was watching Star Trek so I said I would get back to the political party the next day. I turned them down.) Some of us even arrive in government only to discover that the system is so big and cumbersome that nobody really has a handle on the whole contraption. It just sort of runs by itself, on its own inertia. Inefficiency is part of what keeps it going. As soon as you try to make it more efficient, you make some wise-ass decision that looks good on paper but ends up dumping an old geezer out of a hospital bed or forcing some kid to live on the street.

Perhaps you think I’m being facetious. I’m not. I’m totally convinced now that I like paying taxes and, like you, I don’t want to pay too much. If you are middle class and live in Canada, you know that all the money you make until June 27 goes to the taxman. June 28 is the first day of the year you make a dollar you can call your own. When it comes to taxes in Canada, we get reamed.

But money is this flow-through tea bag of a deal. It comes and goes and hoarding it is a dull hobby. If you got to keep all the money to yourself, you’d become a mean little person. And if you waste too much energy grieving over taxes, you can get ulcers or wrinkles on your brow. If you are really pissed off at the government, you can cheat them out of a good portion of their due by giving away big gobs of your income to good charities. Or you can buy an abandoned old oil rig in international waters, move there and declare it an independent country. You’ll probably do OK until the first hurricane of the season comes your way. I?]

Lesley Choyce, the author of 57 books, lives on the coast in Nova Scotia. To comment: overtoyou@macleans.ca