Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Modest Proposal

I sent a letter to the New York Times this morning:
President Barack Obama has asked for the collaboration of every American, rich or poor, Republican or Democrat. In view of the "tax problems" that are plaguing the confirmation of his nominees, I have a modest proposal: Let every American who has failed at any time to pay taxes for a nanny or domestic help, who has failed to declare a gift or a casino win, who has fudged--just a little--on income or expenses, stand up at an agreed-upon time and declare out loud to the world at large: I HAVE A TAX PROBLEM. The thunder would be deafening. I know that I'd be standing with the rest of us.
Anyone else standing?


John Torcello said...

I agree, Peter...As these tax issues keep arising, I couldn't help but think about the tax wrangling that other lawmakers (and businessmen) use to avoid payment of taxes...making their efforts 'legal' in a technical sense...It's 'fresh' to have these issues come to the fore (in this new administration) carrying a sense that it does matter how these leaders have behaved; error, oversight, or not...I think just another example of the 'change' that is upon us...whether we choose to accept its arrival or not...

roger said...

daschle's "tax problem" was close to $140,000.00. that's the amount of tax he didn't pay, not the amount of income he didn't report.

he's part of the ruling class, and so is his lobbyist wife.

was your tax problem that large?

sorry if i seem abrupt, but i'm out of patience with rich people who can't figure out their income, and obama's new (not!) ethics standards.

roger said...

oh dear. have i misconstrued your letter? my apologies peter.

and now i see that daschle has withdrawn. good for him. he's still part of the ruling class.

i'll be quiet now.

citizen of the world said...

I don't know - I've nevr had domestic help of any kind, except for someone who mowed my lawn several times one summer. DOes that count? And I don't gamnble ever. But it's possible there are other areas.

At any rate, that might be a good thing, but I don't think that would hold a candle to weatlthy people and businesses paying their fair share of taxes.

PeterAtLarge said...

Thanks for the feedback, John. It's a perplexing situation. Of course we all want the change, but not at the cost of experience and competence.

And Roger, I don't think we disagree in principle--and I don't think you actually misconstrued my original post. I'm as skeptical as you are of the "ruling class", but it's unrealistic to demand that every public servant be purer than Caesar's wife. (Not likely that she was particularly pure anyway!) I think that it's a shame we had to lose a man of Daschle's political potential and experience, even though I deplore, as you, the ethical lapse that caused it.

And Citizen, I agree: it's way past time to close the loopholes that make it possible for wealthy individuals and corporations to avoid paying a fair share.

mandt said...

"--it's unrealistic to demand that every public servant be purer than Caesar's wife." lol
Well, it's certainly not unrealistic to assume anybody could be more impure than Claudius's wife. :)
I would make the argument that taxation is the world's oldest profession.

khengsiong said...

Oh... I didn't know casino win is taxed too. Anyway, I lost money in Las Vegas.

You know, several years back I worked in the U.S. Since H1B application took months to approve, my employer told me to enter the U.S. using B1 visa. I didn't pay income tax for the first few months.

My friend, another Malaysian, was happy for not paying tax. He left immediately after his H1B was approved, and went to Mexico instead. Not me. I valued peace of mind, and I would choose California over Mexico at any time.

Anthony Matthews said...

The US tax code is way over-complicated, and that fact in and of itself is a convenient shield for anyone, rich or poor (but mostly rich), to hide behind. "Oh, we made a mistake, misinterpreted the rules, overlooked this or that." Daschle just did it on a grand scale. Nancy Killefer, on the other hand, actually only overlooked $298 in employment taxes for her housekeeper (the rest of the $900 was penalties and interest). A seemingly innocent mistake, but she "did the right thing" and allowed the system and the press to take her down, while Geithner glibly battled on, maintaining his innocence, and is now confirmed. Quite honestly, we should probably put all these nominees on "American Gladiator" and see who can get to the end of the track without being knocked off the big rolling ball by the water cannon. It's about as valid of a test of character and ability as an analysis of their tax and other personal history.

Paul said...

Here's another proposal. Put us all in a line and say, "Those of you not afflicted with greed, hatred, and delusion, take one step back."

What would that look like?

PeterAtLarge said...

MandT, okay, taxes... But somehow we do need to pay for the essentials to run a country. The fact that we have "revolted" against taxes for so long explains, in part at least, how we ran ourselves into this ditch. No?

KS, I believe it works like this: you pay taxes on your winnings, but you don't get to deduct your losses!

Anthony, thanks for the perspective. It seems that we have lost all sense of pragmatism and proportion in this theater of the absurd!

Paul, nice refinement on my original idea! Thanks!