Taxes, Tax Cuts & The IRS – Snoopy Said It Best

There’s an irony in America’s history over taxation.  Laurence J. Peter wrote:  “America is a land of taxation that was founded to avoid taxation.”  The Sons of Liberty resisted the Stamp Act in 1765 with the protest, “No taxation without representation!”  Yet many taxpayers around April 15th grumble, “Taxation with representation ain’t so hot either.”    Mark Twain agreed:  “What is the difference between a taxidermist and a tax collector? The taxidermist takes only your skin.”

Benjamin Franklin observed, “…in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.” To which, Will Rogers once retorted, “The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.” Calvin Coolidge said, “Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery.”  Austin O’Malley concurred, “In levying taxes and in shearing sheep it is well to stop when you get down to the skin.”  

There is a danger of injustice in the government’s ability to tax.  Winston Churchill declared: “There is no such thing as a good tax.” Chief Justice, John Marshall, famously wrote, “The power to tax is the power to destroy.”  

In an age of ever-escalating entitlements, James Madison, the architect of the American Constitution should be quoted more often: “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.” Further, what is one man’s act of good may coerce another’s conscience.  Thomas Jefferson wrote, “To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.” Taxes do not begin as the government’s property.   John S. Coleman explains, “What the government gives it must first take away.”  

Yet partisan debate rages over tax-cuts.  Is it wonderful to allow tax-payers to keep more of their hard-earned money? Or is it an exploitation of the poor and a way to get more government money to the wealthy?   Partisan politics aside, it is a universal truth that the people who complain about taxes can be divided into two classes: men and women.

Women complain about taxes: Margaret Mitchell: “Death, taxes and childbirth! There’s never any convenient time for any of them.” Judith Martin: “The invention of the teenager was a mistake. Once you identify a period of life in which people get to stay out late but don’t have to pay taxes–naturally, no one wants to live any other way.” Paula Poundstone: “The wages of sin are death, but after they take the taxes out, it’s more like a tired feeling, really.” Peg Bracken: “Why does a slight tax increase cost you two hundred dollars and a substantial tax cut save you thirty cents?”

Men grumble about taxes:  Evan Esar: “Some taxpayers close their eyes, some stop their ears, some shut their mouths, but all pay through the nose.” Bob Thaves: “I don’t know if I can live on my income or not–the government won’t let me try it.”  F.J. Raymond: “Next to being shot at and missed, nothing is really quite as satisfying as an income tax refund.” John Andrew Holmes: “If the Lord loveth a cheerful giver, how he must hate the taxpayer!”  John Sherman: “We are told that this is an odious and unpopular tax. I never knew a tax that was not odious and unpopular with the people who paid it.”  Morgan Stanley: “You must pay taxes. But there’s no law that says you gotta leave a tip.”  Ron Paul: “One thing is clear: The Founding Fathers never intended a nation where citizens would pay nearly half of everything they earn to the government.”

Is a tax-cut a good thing or a bad thing?  For starters, the fact that the new law is supposed to make things simpler for the average tax payer must be viewed as a good thing.  Even Albert Einstein declared:  “The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.” Leon Panetta exclaimed, “If we don’t do something to simplify the tax system, we’re going to end up with a national police force of internal revenue agents.”  Will Rogers said “the income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf has.”

Some have identified a tax with a fine.  A fine is a tax for doing something wrong and a tax is a fine for doing something right.  If there’s any truth in that tongue-in-cheek definition, wouldn’t a tax-cut by definition be a good thing?  Senator Bob Dole explained, “The purpose of a tax cut is to leave more money where it belongs: in the hands of the working men and working women who earned it in the first place.”

A reason for being grateful for a tax-cut, along with keeping more of one’s own property, is to limit and reform government.  Lao Tzu declared long ago, “The people are hungry: It is because those in authority eat up too much in taxes.” Milton Friedman reasoned, “We have a system that increasingly taxes work and subsidizes non-work.”  Ronald Reagan summarized government taxation policy: “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” Will Rogers quipped, “Be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.”

When all is said and done, maybe Snoopy said it best: “Dear IRS, I am writing to you to cancel my subscription. Please remove my name from your mailing list.”  And if the IRS won’t co-operate, keep two adages in mind.  First, we really don’t know how much we have to be thankful for until we have to pay taxes on it.  Second, remember the best things in life are free—but watch out because sooner or later the government may find a way to tax them too.

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