Getting my money’s worth
My eyes are glazed over and my head is spinning. I think I need to eat some candy or take a nap. The last four hours have been spent tracking down all the forms and records I need to file my income taxes. The final dreaded date of April 15 is rapidly approaching, and I know many of you can identify with my mental state.
Numbers have never been my thing and, fortunately, I have a great friend and expert for an accountant. I am not about to write a treatise on the virtues of paying taxes. Nor am I advocating for one feature of our tax code over another. It is well beyond me to be an expert. I just feel a need to be part of a communal cry to the universe: ‘Good grief.’
Life certainly isn’t simple and most attempts to act as if it is are futile. So, is it any surprise that our tax structures are mind-boggling jumbles of technical statements? We work so hard as a people to make things ‘fair.’ I really believe that lawmakers and administrators also try to be accountable and fair. So, let’s not argue about whom to tax, under what conditions and to what degree.
Let’s just admit that taxes are a reality in life and this time of year literally a pain in the neck.
As I sit here, exhausted from a wrestling match with records and files, I am looking out on a rather busy street at rush hour. Most of the cars driving by are of a rather new model. Although it snowed last night and the lawns are still covered with about five inches of white blanket, the roads are clear after having been plowed early this morning. My neighbors retrieved their trash cans from the curbs as the city trucks emptied them on schedule. Boys and girls on my block attended school today with heated classrooms, educated and caring teachers and up-to-date computers. The streetlights are beginning to come on, lights are glowing from the windows of houses and we will have enough food and clean drinking water for dinner. We are a neighborhood of all kinds of people: varying incomes, races, ages and personal health, living together quite peacefully. None of us worry that resources and programs will not be there to meet our specific needs tomorrow.
There will be almost too many choices of activities this evening. If one wants to stay home, there is an inexhaustible supply of uncensored books from the library and stores. The television has almost too many channels covering hard news, fluffy movies, shopping venues, sports events, music or quality educational programs. Our homes are safe, warm and convenient.
There are options galore for those who want to go out, everything from walks around the block, concerts in symphony halls, drinks at the corner pub and, always this time of year, basketball.
This is a pretty great place to live, this Indiana. I travel quite a bit around the world and love the variety of counties and cultures. But I must admit, many of the lands I visit have different agendas or lifestyles than the one I chronicled above. Few places have slaves anymore, but there are systems that keep certain people under the control of others. Institutions, traditions and policies reflect less respect for individuals and their lives.
In our country, when we greet one another with the typical ‘Hi. How are you?,’ we really don’t expect a reply. I am told that in many countries it is a serious concern when one asks. Health services are expensive and of limited availability. In 2006, the United Nations Human Development Report noted: ‘Some 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water ‘ a necessary ingredient for life. 2.6 billion people lack basic sanitation. 1.8 million children die each year as a result of diarrhea. Lack of water is closely related to poverty.’ Public policy and economic forces often control its flow.
Jonas Horvich, an internationally recognized economist, explained to me that there is plenty of good, fresh water on our planet and we have the capacity to produce adequate nourishing food. What we lack is fair and wise management and distribution. We live in a complex, changing and highly developed society. It takes a lot of will, skill and, yes, money to keep us going.
As I sit in my serviceable home, secure and warm, I would be dumb to think that I deserve such a good quality of life. Individuals alone can’t manage to create a working and sophisticated society. We need a unifying body that puts together equitable policies and programs that take care of communal needs and opportunities. With all the flaws, weaknesses, loopholes, etc. that our tax system possesses, I should think myself shortsighted to believe that I didn’t get my money’s worth.