Ichabod's Kin
A place for politics, pop culture, and social issues

Big, Bad Taxes

Sometimes when I get Up To Here with all the blah-blah about taxes, I drive down to Newport, RI–the mecca for all who dream of a world devoid of taxation.

It is there and among yesteryear’s houses of the poor smothered rich that I can smell, as well as understand, why some people today wish to bring it all back. Of course, they wouldn’t stop with Newport but would wish it on all America–and especially for themselves.

What a life they had!–full of wasteful hours and meaningless pursuits, bought by wealth gained in the usual places like shipping, railroads, trade and the stock market where they made the rules of financial games that were all tilted in their favor. And they got to keep every penny of it.

That is, until the personal income tax came along on March 1, 1914, a date that to them would live in infamy. Till then, few things got on their nerves except the Have Nots who longed to come and stare at this insane picture. What is different from today is that there was a monopoly on such wealth whereas now people who are outside looking in, but with sucker eyes from get-rich schemes that have been a staple of TV, imagine that they are but a step away from being inhabitants of another Golden City.

Of course, Newport had rules about that, too, and one thing they didn’t like was New Money. So when someone arrived with what today would be tech-bubble dough or from a handful of Chick-Fi-Lay franchises, they would have to approach the door with hat in hand and hope to be invited to one of the many seasonal parties where, e.g., revelers dressed like characters from Mother Goose. Once in, which was almost never, the newbies prayed that one of the eligible Astor or Vanderbilt bachelors would take a shine to their daughters and at last marry them for anything but love.

My, what a life. But you had to move fast because the party season lasted only a few weeks and then everyone was up and gone, back to New York where other games were played, but always with an eye to the next summer. Why some imagine that this is a picture of heaven and not hell is grist for the Couch. But, hey, maybe that’s just me.

As said, it was all possible largely by the absence of taxes. The Republican party, and conservatism generally in the U.S., used to have a useful theoretical foundation. Before my time, I wouldn’t have been one but would have respected them. But as the world changed, thanks to wars and Rooselvelt, and the GOP and its ilk, lacking ideas, morphed into a right wing and opted for form over substance.

All that was leftover was the longing for a world without taxes: such a simple little word–one syllable in the singular, two in the plural–and perfect for minds given largely to impressions and devoid of details.

Their mantra is that we’re being taxed to death. Oh, no, we’re not. We’re taxed less than any developed, industrial society. Their answer to that is that, yeah, but those other countries don’t get what they pay for. Oh, yes, they do. The reason we don’t is because we don’t pay for it but think we should get it all on the cheap. What they’re talking about is another universe, one that won’t be found, in millions of light years, even in another galaxy,  because it doesn’t exist.

Our problem isn’t, and never was, taxes. We and our economy are ruined by interest, “fees,” and other “charges,” hence the mortgage crisis, the weight of credit card debt and Wall Street thievery: these are what nearly brought down our nation and its way of life. Yet Republicans remain on the side of that kind of wealth and its robber barons and even found apologizing to corporations like BP and defending the rich from further taxation.

Theirs is the same reaction as that of Newporters when that first income tax was one percent on minimal earnings and up to seven percent on a half million dollars and up. And, as under today’s new rules, the overwhelming number of citizens were untaxable, but the lords of dough–like the barons of Newport in days gone by–howled their defiance, but nobody felt sorry for them. It is a credit to the drum-beat of protest by congressional Republicans and of Fox News that people have come to believe that the rich are victims of a greedy government.

Their next ruse is to call reason and sanity a bad name, to wit, “socialism,” which isn’t a bad word at all but ends in “ism,” as does commun-ism. They forget that capitalism does too but, never mind, people who watch only FoX News are letting other people do their thinking for them.

Right now the quibble from wingnuts in Arizona is that immigrants are taking jobs away from us, and using our healthcare resources: lies and more lies. We know that because Missouri (my home state) just voted overwhelmingly (in a slim turnout) against the government health system, meaning that the same people, regardless of wealth or lack thereof–not to mention their color or  status–who won’t buy insurance would continue to go to hospital emergency rooms–and make everyone else would pay for it. Can you say, “socialism,” again? But unthinking people won’t think anything through.

Missouri, by the way, is now being called what Peoria, IL (“will it play in Peoria?”) and other places like Ohio and Indiana used to be, which is, a “bellweather”state. What that means is that it’s the latest to appear like a drunk on a barstool–you never know which way they’re going to fall. Please don’t call that a virtue. Or as their home boy Mark Twain said of its weather: if you don’t like it, wait a minute. Same now goes for its population. It was also a Border state in the Civil War, when families would change sympathies whilst a soldier son was away, and, on his return, plug him good for being on the wrong side.

Being against taxes is the lamest, easiest mind game in America today. We don’t need less or none of them; we need tax reform, i.e., a fair tax system, and that begins with the rich. All this will play out in time, as did the fun and games in Newport, where those grand old homes are what Jesus said of tombs–whitewashed outwardly but inwardly full of dead men’s bones, along with their ideas.

4 Responses to “Big, Bad Taxes”

  1. Nicely written post. I’ve been reading Robert B. Reich’s memoir of his time as Labor Secretary under President Clinton. Reminds me a lot of what you write.
    Doug Davidoff
    Arlington, Massachusetts

  2. According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Proposition C was sponsored by two state representatives from Town And Country, one of the most affluent communities in the St. Louis region.

  3. Who do those voting for Prop C think pays for all those uninsured’s medical treatments?

  4. Very true indeed. But I fear that, in addition to the dependably selfish right, the new “me” generation will also value personal gain over the care of the planet and its species. The “teach your children well” ethos may not work out as intended.

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