Herb Paine: Deep in the heart of taxes

April 17, 2012

I put the finishing touches on my tax return.

I did everything the law allows to minimize my tax liability.

Herb Paine Herb Paine (Courtesy photo)

Paradoxically, the system is designed for me to cut corners on my obligation to the country while my country desperately needs more of my money to finance the things we all need. Except the system's so out of whack that all I'm really paying for is the IOU on a huge out-of-control debt. This doesn't make sense or dollars.

I'm ready to pay more taxes if I knew for certain that my investment was being spent prudently, that the dollars already collected were being used wisely. But I'm not convinced of that, of course. I virtually quiver at how much I have paid my government for the blessings of liberty and for the infrastructure, the parks, the bridges, and roads that have yet to be repaired, and the schools that are failing, and the wars that are never ending, and the energy independence that has yet to be realized, and the bailout of the banks that are foreclosing on my neighbors, and the legislators who are underperforming.

Signing off on the 1040 taxes my mind. It gets me to wonder just what I'm getting in return from the return. I pledge allegiance to my nation where taxation with representation has become a serious problem, a conundrum.

This election year introduces us all again to the great quadrennial charade when candidates talk of tax reform and fairness. I don't count on them to deliver on their promises. I'm not fooled by a Buffett Rule that increases taxes on capital gains or tax code reform that only deepens the gap between rich and poor.

Waiting for true tax reform is like waiting for the Tooth Fairy.

So I have a modest proposal. What if, in addition to voting for these jokers on election day, we conducted a national referendum on priorities! Spell out the public will, independent of polarizing primaries and nonsensical campaign promises. Set benchmarks against which we can measure legislative performance. Because, let's get real, this Democrat/Republican, liberal/conservative thing just isn't cutting it -- not in these times when we need nonpartisan problem-solvers in a collaborative effort to fix and grow this economy.

For that kind of politics, I'll kindly pay my taxes; I'll even double the ante.


Herb Paine is a business strategy consultant, former candidate for Congress, and social critic.