David Bouchier: Taxing Times

Apr 15, 2019

This is the day when it becomes crystal clear that “Government by the people” actually means “Government paid for by the people.” On April 15 we are all required to make our involuntary contribution towards another year of Washington chaos, no matter what it costs, and of course we should feel wonderful about that.

My own contribution to the gigantic money-laundering machine in D.C. is financially insignificant. It will scarcely pay a senator’s salary for a week. But it comes at a psychological price. In order to appease the IRS, I have to live the year 2018 all over again.

I hate this. Let the past bury the past, is my motto. But no, it all has to be dragged out again for the accountant’s inspection – every mile driven, every hotel bill, every desperate call to the computer consultant, every medical co-pay – it’s all laid out there in a big file of receipts, twelve months of life reduced to numbers. What’s worse, the numbers don’t change much from year to year. Not only is the world flat, as Thomas L. Friedman ingeniously proposed, but my life is flat. It seems interesting and varied to me as I live it, until the moment in April when we sit down with the accountant. Then it looks supremely dull. Every year I predictably drive about the same number of miles, go to the office superstore every couple of months, pay the same fees to the same so-called professional organizations, and so on down the list. The receipts for 2018 look exactly the same as those for 2017, and the growing heap for 2019 looks much the same again.

This taxing review of the past year is more than just a reminder of how unadventurous I have been. It also reflects poorly on my financial skills. Once again I have failed to become rich through manipulating hedge funds (although I’ll never understand how they make all that money out of hedges). Once again I have failed to win the lottery or become a rock star, or catch the generous attention of an important lobbyist, or sue somebody for millions of dollars, or file a false insurance claim, or deal a lot of illegal drugs, or sell a house for ten times what I paid for it. What’s the matter with me? Other people do these things all the time, apparently without thought or effort.

Honoré de Balzac wrote: “Behind every great fortune there lies a great crime.” This suggests that the absence of a great fortune can be credited to great honesty. But I’m afraid it’s less flattering than that. It’s all about indifference, and a kind of perverse pride.

Most of my friends in the marginal worlds of writing and the arts are far from rich. That’s the proper condition of a writer, as of an artist or a teacher. We are proud of not paying attention to money. So it’s not honesty we suffer from, it’s stupidity. Anyone will tell you that money is the only thing that matters. The tax code is the scripture of the religion of money. The more cunningly we read and interpret its mystical rules, the greater our rewards will be. Today is Judgment Day. Economic atheists cannot hope to be saved.

Copyright: David Bouchier