Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Friday, March 15, 2013

History by Orwell: The Tax Poem

I first thought of posting this as a meme blog, but it isn’t really a meme. I don’t know how many of you have seen this poem, but it is a cute little satiric poem that has made the rounds – well, not this poem but a politicized version of it.


Tax his land, tax his wage,
Tax his bed in which he lays.
Tax his tractor, tax his mule,
Teach him taxes is the rule.
Tax his cow, tax his goat,
Tax his pants, tax his coat.
Tax his ties, tax his shirts,
Tax his work, tax his dirt.
Tax his chew, tax his smoke,
Teach him taxes are no joke.
Tax his car, tax his ass
Tax the roads he must pass.
Tax his tobacco, tax his drink,
Tax him if he tries to think.
Tax his booze, tax his beers,
If he cries, tax his tears.
Tax his bills, tax his gas,
Tax his notes, tax his cash.
Tax him good and let him know
That after taxes, he has no dough.
If he hollers, tax him more,
Tax him until he's good and sore.
Tax his coffin, tax his grave,
Tax the sod in which he lays.
Put these words upon his tomb,
"Taxes drove me to my doom!"
And when he's gone, we won't relax,
We'll still be after the inheritance TAX!
                                        -Author Unknown

The poem has been around for a while and is intended as humorous. It was until the extreme folks got a hold of it. The earliest posting of it that I could find was 2006, but it became popular for political reasons when it began to make the rounds in late 2008 with this added

Added to the poem :   Accounts Receivable Tax, Airline surcharge tax, Airline Fuel Tax, Airport Maintenance Tax, Building, Permit Tax, Cigarette Tax, Corporate Income Tax. Death Tax, Dog License Tax, Driving Permit Tax, Excise Taxes, Federal Income Tax, Federal Unemployment (UI). Fishing License Tax, Food License Tax, Gasoline Tax ( too much per litre or gallon), Gross Receipts Tax, Health Tax, Hunting License Tax, Hydro Tax, Inheritance Tax, Interest Tax, Liquor Tax, Luxury Taxes, Marriage License Tax, Medicare Tax, Mortgage Tax, Personal Income Tax, Property Tax, Poverty Tax, Prescription Drug Tax, Provincial Income Tax, Real Estate Tax, Recreational Vehicle Tax, Retail Sales Tax, Service Charge Tax, School Tax, Telephone Federal Tax, Telephone Federal, Provincial and Local Surcharge Taxes, Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax, Vehicle License Registration Tax, Vehicle Sales Tax, Water Tax, Watercraft Registration Tax, Well Permit Tax, Workers Compensation Tax

This list is frequently added as if it were a part of the original poem. It isn’t.

And then at the end this is added:

Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago, & our nation was one of the most prosperous in the world. We had absolutely no national debt, had a large middle class, and Mom stayed home to raise the kids. What in the hell happened? Can you spell 'politicians?' And I still have to 'press 1' for English!?!?!?!? I hope this goes around (pick your place, I’ve seen it with Canada, the United States, Facebook and the internet) at least (Pick your number it varies) times!!!!! YOU can help it get there!!!! GO AHEAD - - - be a (Pick your country origin and type it in all caps) !!!!!!!!!! SEND IT AROUND EVERYWHERE.

(Gotta love all the caps and extra punctuation because we all know that increases the outrage of it exponentially.)
So here we go. Yes we have a lot of taxes but the add-on has some major problems. First a number of items on the list are not taxes but fees. There is a difference. A tax is a general service provided by the government that must be paid for. A fee is related to a specific service that has a calculable cost. For example, a license is a fee not a tax. You pay a fee for a particular item and the cost of the use of that item or the cost of creating and policing that item. It doesn’t just contain the cost of the item, but all the things that go with it. Parks charge a use fee. Admittedly the line can become a bit fuzzy in some instances.

Then there are luxury taxes which are actually placed on elective items that we don’t really need. There are also the penalty taxes such as those placed on tobacco which were actually designed to cover the heath cost of using such things.

But what gets me is the add-on paragraph which harkens back to a time when there were no taxes, and we were the “most prosperous nation in the world” 100 years ago. If there were no taxes, then why did Ben Franklin write "'In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” which is actually a variation of a quote from Daniel Defoe from 1726? Taxes have been around for a very, very long time. If you want, even Jesus discussed taxes in the bible. In Matthew 17:24-27, Peter says Jesus does pay taxes and then in Mark 12:13-17, in one of the traps of the Pharisees, Jesus tells them in regards to paying tribute (tax) to Caesar, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” So taxing is not a new idea.

In fact, some of the taxes in the list were around more than 100 years ago. The telephone tax is from the late 1800s and the liquor tax was the cause of the Whiskey Rebellion which George Washington had to put down. You may also recall an English tax ended in a tea party?  I am still pondering what a "food license tax" is.  To impy that taxes and fees are some sort of a new idea is plainly not one of the brighter statements in the poem’s new additions.

Then there is the entire issue of the US or Canada being the most prosperous nation with a large middle class 100 years ago. We weren’t. The USA was not a world power until after World War II. We did not have a large middle class. We had the wealthy and the working class. Many a mom didn’t stay at home unless she was a part of the upper class. She did things like tend the farm, take in laundry and sewing or even cleaning the homes of the well-to-do. We had, in fact, had to enact about a hundred years ago, child labor laws because of the extremity of how kids were used by the Robber Barons and factories.

Large middle class? Really? Sorry didn’t exist.

And “no national debt?” In 1789, when the Constitution went into effect, the US Treasury issued bonds because Congress owed 75 million dollars. Yep. A national debt. In today’s dollars that would be roughly 900 billion of national debt. We have had a national debt since that time.

This is the kind of Orwellian historical rewrite, that would make Big Brother proud. We need to live in the land we have not some fictitious land that some person has conjured up. Sorry, but to politicize a poem about the certainty of taxes in favor of something that never existed is a fairy tale and if we are going to solve problems, we need to solve what is not what never was.

And would someone please explain what pressing “1” has to do with taxes?