We render till our pockets hurt
THE IDES of April will soon be upon us, time for us to render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and render anything left to Caesar, too.
Actually, thanks to the miracle of automatic "withholding," we render unto Caesar all year long. The only thing we do by April 15 is file little historical documents that, if not filled out right, can later be used against us in a court of law.
At this time of year, I always recall a federal court case that I covered as a reporter, the case of a guy who didn't pay federal income tax because, according to his reading of the Internal Revenue Service code, paying taxes is voluntary. He outlined his position to the judge, a visiting sweetheart of a jurist I think was put on the bench by Richard Nixon when he was in a grumpy mood. The judge leaned forward, leering from his koa-sided throne, and yelled, "Yeah, paying taxes is voluntary! You volunteer to do it or something bad happens to you!"
In that case, the "something bad" was something like two years in a federal correctional institution.
MOST OF US have no qualms about paying taxes. We just wish we didn't have to fool with all the complicated forms. As I've said before, there should be a very brief, simple form saying, "How much did you make last year? Give it to us."
We have the distinction in Hawaii of being the most heavily taxed state in the known galaxy. So it's irritating to find out that 1) there is a huge tax surplus, and 2) our elected officials can't figure out what to do with it.
The answer to No. 2 is easy: Give it back to us. It is, after all, our money. After we all have a hearty chuckle over that proposal, consider No. 1: Why is the state collecting more of our money than it needs? I'm no math wizard, but isn't paying for government services simply a case of figuring out how much money you need and then having everyone chip in, in a fair and impartial way? OK, another hearty chuckle. I think I heard someone squirt milk out their nose.
Russia has a flat tax. Everybody pays a fixed percentage of their income to the state, and that's it. Think about that. A few generations ago, Stalin was busy killing everyone in the name of communism, and now Russia has a more democratic tax system than America. How great is that?
Anyway, it was the Ides of March, not Ides of April when people ceased rendering unto Caesar. And they did it with knives. Perhaps he should have instituted the short form.
, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org