Okay so I had this idea for the May column but then I had to pay my taxes on April 15th and everything changed. This isn’t going to be a rant about too much taxation – I have opinions about that of course. Who doesn’t? But that’s not what this column is about. Besides, if you want read the various points of view on taxes there’s a million other places you can go.
Instead I want to take a moment to consider what our annual ordeal of getting the forms, and even more painful the checks, in on time reveals about us. I have to start by admitting that while I knew the word “taxonomy” before I sat down to write this, I actually to look it up to be sure about what it means. Sigh… pretty sad, huh? (Just in case you’ve forgotten too, it means the science of organizing or categorizing things. Used here since I’m going to categorize our reactions to taxation.)
So aside from my illiteracy what does all our angst or anger mean anyway?
The first thing I’ve noticed here is how inconsistent human beings can be. I know people who vocally support a bigger government eleven months out of the year who gripe, whine and complain for that one month when they actually have to pony up the dough to pay for it. It seems that many of my big government friends think it’s a great idea as long as someone else pays for it!
Then there are my small government friends. They spend eleven months a year griping and complaining about how incompetent the government is and then spend April whining and crying about how they seem to pay more each year. That’s consistent right? Well it is until they start to complain about some government program that they liked that just got shut down for lack of funding. Then it becomes a wee bit hypocritical.
The biggest personal lesson I see here is our never ending desire to have our cake and eat it too. Inside of almost everyone lives a spoiled little two year old brat who wants absolute autonomy while demanding complete comfort and protection at the same time. Of course that’s not possible, and every adult ought to know that, but it doesn’t stop from wanting it now, does it?
There’s one more thing that stands out to me about all this. Every year, almost everyone is unhappy about taxation. Whether it’s too little or too much, or not fair, or aimed at the wrong people, etc. We hear an endless litany of complaints, most of them very familiar, over and over again.
So why don’t we change it? Aside from not being able to agree on how it ought to be changed, the truth is change is hard and it’s threatening. If we were ever to really change things, like doing away with the income tax, for example, and instituting a national sales or VAT tax, that would threaten a whole lot of folks. From the politicians who write the laws, to everyone employed by the IRS, to all the tax preparers and beyond.
As much as we might want change, most of the time we aren’t willing to endure the discomfort needed to make that change stick. Which is why more often than not, neither we nor our government really changes.
So while I’m still recovering from all that money I had to pay this year, I keep reminding myself to stop complaining about it, and do something about it instead. That’s a truth that applies to every area of life.
Oh, and I’ll talk about something more pleasant next month – unless of course I don’t!
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Louie Marsh is pastor of Christ’s Church on the River on the Parker Strip. Visit the website HERE.