Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Baker on the American Way of Tax

Rosen & Gayer's Public Finance textbook, which I use in my classes, has a box with a classic Russell Baker text that originally appeared in the International Herald Tribune in 1977. It's more relevant than ever. Here's a segment:

“Figg,” he said, “you have made me sore wroth with your way of life. Therefore, I am going to soak you for more federal income taxes.” And he squeezed Figg until beads of blood popped out along the seams of Figg’s wallet.

“Mercy, good tax man,” Figg gasped. “Tell me how to live so that I may please my government, and I shall obey.”

The tax man told Figg to quit renting and buy a house. The government wanted everyone to accept large mortgage loans from bankers. If Figg complied, it would cut his taxes.

Figg bought a house, which he did not want, in a suburb where he did not want to live, and he invited his friends and relatives to attend a party celebrating his surrender to a way of life that pleased his government.

The tax man was so furious that he showed up and the party with bloodshot eyes. “I have had enough of this, Figg,” he declared. “Your government doesn’t want you entertaining friends and relatives. This will cost you plenty.”

Figg immediately threw out all his friends and relatives, then asked the tax man what sort of people his government wished him to entertain. “Business associates,” said the tax man. “Entertain plenty of business associates, and I shall cut your taxes.”

Read the rest here.

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