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COLUMNIST: Getting glued by taxes

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Last week, when the new tax valuation statements came in the mail, I reacted quite negatively, because it seemed to me that county government, in its requirement to raise taxes to balance its spending budget, was out to get me.

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Then, the other night, I had a dream. (No. Martin Luther King wasn't in it.) In this dream about taxes and government, The Tax Baron of Taxes Past appeared and lectured me for my shortsightedness regarding all this.

He told me: "You should be grateful to be paying taxes. Taxes are the glue that holds society together." It did seem odd that he was telling me this through the lowered window of the brand new black Chevy Suburban he was in, but then I realized that by buying this nice vehicle, he was safer riding around in it while collecting government's just due.

I think it had bulletproof glass. The way taxes are going up, you can't blame him. He probably needs it. My car needs a lot of stuff, too, stuff that I can't afford right now, what with how grateful I am for the privilege of saving up money for my first-half real estate taxes.

"Now," he said, "take this old truck here that your tax dollars purchased."

It's nice that The Tax Baron has a sense of humor.

He said: "By buying all new vehicles, your tax dollars are helping America by stimulating the economy."

At this point, I remarked that I too could use a nice old truck like that one, and my bank account could use some stimulation. He shook his head, like he couldn't hear me.

Nevertheless, he was nice enough to turn down his 12-speaker Bose sound system to hear what I had to say. When he found me speechless, he went on to say: "Taxes just make good common sense."

In this dream, he seemed to be making a lot of sense, especially when he said that only right-wingers want to cut taxes. They're ungrateful, he said.

Why is that, I asked him?

"Well," he replied, "when they want to cut taxes, they just want to cut unnecessary ones, and leave the ones that are necessary." Ah, that too made sense.

"For example," he said, "with no taxes, they wouldn't have the road they drove on to get to the seat of government to complain." He looked at me. I agreed. He seemed satisfied with that.

"And if their car or home caught fire, the fire department is supported by those taxes. Wouldn't want to cut those, now, would he."

Yes. That made sense. This was a darned sensible dream I was having about taxes.

Most of my dreams aren't like this, so sensible.

He went on to tell me about the local county health officials who are dealing with a possible flu pandemic, and what would we do without them, because otherwise, he said, a lot of taxpayers would die, and those dead taxpayers wouldn't be paying taxes, and without those taxes, why, that would weaken the glue.

Boy, I'd never thought about taxes like that. And to think just last week I was worried about living long enough to be a property millionaire, worried that no one cared. How wrong I was. This guy cared about us taxpayers, you could tell.

Look, I said, I do want to help. I've got lots of ideas.

The music in his Suburban seemed to get louder when I was talking; less so, when he did. That must be one of the weird side effects of dreaming.

I said, let's put a big tax on other stuff, stuff that I don't buy. Like big expensive boats, fur coats, and Suburbans.

"Well," he said, "that's one of the problems with taxes, because sooner or later, everyone thinks everyone else should be taxed on their own stuff."

Uh huh, I could see that.

But, I said, if they have a lot of stuff, and I don't have hardly any stuff, how come they aren't paying their fair share. (I thought I'd have him here, what with the middle third of American earners paying over 70 percent of taxes. He's no dummy at this, though.)

He came back right away with: "We want to keep those folks buying stuff, don't we, so they can trickle down some of that money to the rest of you people." (Apparently, from what I can see down here, the glue ain't tricklin' down very well.)

Wait. Taxes are the glue?

Right, he said.

And we're kind of like the container that holds the glue, right?

Yes, he said, well put.

And paying taxes is a privilege, right?

Right.

Well, I want to thank you for straightening me out on all this. To think that just yesterday, I wanted to cut taxes, when now I see that my tax dollars are holding all this together. Good night, I said to him.

I still think I'm getting glued.

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