The Magazine

A Nation of Moochers

Happy April 15.

Apr 13, 2009, Vol. 14, No. 29 • By P.J. O'ROURKE
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As April 15 rolls around let us take a moment to recall why we Americans pay taxes: Because some of our country's good-for-nothing bums are too chicken to rob us at gunpoint. That would be members of Congress and the executive branch. How come we keep electing politicians who will tax the bejeezus out of us? Especially Democrats? At least Republicans are smart enough to lie about it.

We keep electing them because taxes are a pretty good deal. The American government will spend $3.6 trillion this year. There are 306 million of us Americans. We each get $11,765. Sure, we get it mostly in transportation pork projects, agricultural price supports, GM charitable contributions, the Marine Corps, and interest payments on Chinese T-bills when we'd rather get it in cash. But, still, $11,765 isn't bad. Let's say you're a family of five: a dad, a mom and three lovely, high-scoring kids participating in enough community service programs to pad their college applications. You're the kind of family we conservatives endorse. And you're getting $58,825. Even Republicans are on the dole. Dad (conservative women are proud to be stay-at-home moms) will have to make a pile of money to pay $59K in taxes so you can each get $11,765 from the government.

Although it is unclear just how big a pile of money Dad will have to make to ensure that he's feeding, housing, and grooming America for the future rather than sucking her teat.

For one thing there's the possibility that President Obama will make all income greater than the 2009 Madoff investor average return subject to punitive capitation. Also U.S. income taxes are so complex that even Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner can't understand them. Plus we all cheat on our taxes (except for Timothy Geithner who can't understand his). Furthermore, personal income tax, Social Security, and Medicare exactions account for only 75 percent of federal receipts. Corporate taxes provide 13 percent, 6 percent is borrowed, and 6 percent comes from that $9 pack of Marlboros you just bought because April 15 is stressing you out.

Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union did some complicated mathematics and says, "By my reckoning, somewhere between 85 and 95 million households out of 115 million total have a smaller tax liability than the per-capita spending burden." The breadwinners for 18 to 26 percent of our households are shoveling coal in the engine rooms of the ship of state, while everybody else is a stowaway, necking with Kate Winslet like Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic.

Pete Sepp goes on to note that those breadwinners doing all the work are also less likely to be on welfare or receiving other government largesse and are more likely to have their Social Security benefits taxed. "If we were to compensate for this," he says, "I imagine that more like 100 million households have a smaller liability than the per-capita spending burden." One hundred out of 115 is 87 percent. Our nation is 87 percent mooch, 87 percent leech, 87 percent "Spare (hope and) change, man?"

It may be even worse than that or--depending on how greedily liberal you are--better. Let's abandon the complicated mathematics of taxation. We don't understand complicated mathematics. We were liberal arts majors. If we understood complicated mathematics we'd be wealthy hedge managers in jail today. Let's go to arithmetic. The U.S. gross domestic product for 2008 has been calculated by the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis as $14.2 trillion. Say the recession keeps recessing and GDP shrinks a bit in 2009. We'll round down to $14 trillion. The federal budget, being $3.6 trillion, is 25.7 percent of the gross domestic product. The government makes off with 25.7 percent of our goods and services. This is our real rate of national taxation. Then the government gives us an $11,765 kickback. If we figure out what $11,765 is 25.7 percent of, we see that before you can call yourself a taxpayer instead of a tax vampire you have to earn $45,778 if you're single, and $228,890 if you're supporting that family of five.

How many households have this kind of income? The president's does, and with only two kids. The president is taxing himself. Good. But all the rest of the U.S. government's operating expenses are being paid by AIG bonus recipients, the ten or a dozen hedge fund managers who aren't in jail yet, a couple of "debt restructuring" scam artists advertising at 3 A.M. on the Food Channel, and Bill Gates.