America’s politicians love the imponderable maze that is our tax system. It allows each man and woman in office to constantly berate those who don’t pay their fair share, whatever group that happens to be at the moment.
While each officeholder may publicly decry the unfairness of it all, allow me to illustrate how most milk the very system they allegedly deplore. For an illustration, let's use Des Moines, Iowa, though, of course, this happens everywhere.
Senator Spendthrift arrives in Des Moines for the purpose of garnering re-election votes. He will be in town for eight hours and will deliver a half dozen speeches to six specific groups: college students, the retired, a portion of the black population, farmers, Hispanics, and veterans.
The speeches will go something like this:
To the students at Drake University in central Des Moines: “Today I am humbled as I have the honor of addressing America’s future. Never before has it been more important to provide tomorrow’s leaders with incentives to excel. The challenges are many, but I know you are more than up to the task of overcoming them. When I return to Washington, I want you to understand you will be at the top of my list in matters of tax reform and improving student loans.”
To the older folks: “Today I am humbled as I have the honor of addressing a portion of parents who sacrificed again and again and again for the sake of their families. No one should forget that America is great because of your untiring devotion to your loved ones. I know full well that inflation robs you of the few dollars you have set aside for your golden years. When I return to Washington, I want you to understand you will be at the top of my list in matters of tax reform and strengthening Social Security."
To his black constituents: “Today I am humbled as I have the honor of addressing a portion of Americans who have not always received the promises America made, and delivered to others instead. We all know that although we have a president who had a black father, racism has now gone underground. Millions of our people still hate others simply because of the color of their skin. When I return to Washington, I want you to understand that you will be at the top of my list when it comes to tax reform and strengthening civil rights.”
To the group of farmers: “Today I am humbled as I have the honor of addressing representatives of a tiny portion of Americans who feed the world. You rise before the sun, bear the noonday heat, and risk everything on a future harvest. I know nearly every person here has lost crops at one time or another. But you persevere. Our markets are full of nutritious produce because you quietly, and without fanfare or ceremony, labor for us. When I return to Washington, I want you to understand you will be at the top of my list when it comes to tax reform and strengthening farm subsidies.”
To the group of Hispanics: “Today I am humbled as I have the honor of addressing a portion of our population that continues to see loved ones denied entry to our country because of racial prejudice. Every list of America’s heroes, regardless of the criteria, contains many Hispanic names. Over and over again, your maligned group has risen to the menial tasks given to them, without complaning. When I return to Washington, I want you to understand you will be at the top of my list when it comes to tax reform and revamping immigration laws.”
To the veterans: “Today, I am humbled as I have the honor of addressing a portion of our citizens who left the comfort of their homes and laid it all on the line in the name of freedom. I know many of you have lost comrades or body parts defending each citizen’s right to live free. Our beautiful flag still waves because of you doing your duty. When I return to Washington, I want you to understand you will be at the top of my list when it comes to tax reform and strengthening our military.”
Well, the eight hours are over and Senator Spendthrift is on a plane back to Washington. When no tax reform is passed, he’ll blame the other 99 senators for their short-sighted views. If everyone paid a flat 17 percent of income, for example, our dear senator/politician couldn’t say what he told his six audiences. That is why we will continue to divide our population into opposing segments.
With a flat tax, any increase would have everyone squealing. But that would make sense and put politicians on the hook. So let’s keep it complicated. I really believe Americans enjoy being lied to.
Walt Osterman is the author of "Not Home Yet: A Tale Concerning Israel's Rebirth." He served in Vietnam and is a Bronze Star recipient. He lives in Wyoming.
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