by William ‘BJ’ Lawson, UnitedLiberty.org
As various tax-related mail begins to appear in the mailboxes of hardworking Americans across the country, itâ€™s instructive for all of us to reflect on why we carry the burden of our government every April.
Take this morning, for instance. We can credit the â€œingenuity of the marketsâ€, and specifically the ingenuity of John Thain, for moving annual executive bonus payments by Merrill Lynch up by a month last November, thus disbursing $15 billion in executive bonuses just before closing Merrillâ€™s acquisition by Bank of America. Fast forward a few months, and the United States taxpayer just gave Bank of America another $20 billion in newly-borrowed funds to put a band-aid on mortar wounds in Merrill Lynchâ€™s balance sheet.
Doesnâ€™t that make you relish the withholding from your paycheck? Seventy-five percent of the cash payment from our latest Bank of America bailout went directly to Merrill Lynch executives.
But wait, thereâ€™s more. Large companies predictably demonstrate that the best ways to embrace economic challenges are cost cutting, layoffs, and vaguely-defined attempts at increasing operational efficiency. One underappreciated source of operational efficiency is office redecorating â€” and in early 2008, John Thain spent $1.2 million renovating his office in Merrill Lynchâ€™s midtown Manhattan office.
Please donâ€™t misunderstand â€” I have nothing against a $1.2 million office overhaul paid for by Merrill Lynch. I simply object to an office overhaul followed by a massive transfusion from American taxpayers. Whereâ€™s my feng shui?
If youâ€™re concerned about where your money is going as you pay taxes this April, I can think of several ways to respond. On one hand, Iâ€™d encourage you to consider the American banking system as a new national park. Youâ€™ve paid over $350 billion already, with trillions in future guarantees. In the case of Bank of America, the most recent $138 billion bailout dwarfs its market capitalization, so you own it just as certainly as you own Yosemite.
Visit the offices of local TARP-receiving banks. Enjoy a cup of coffee, admire the decorations on the walls. If youâ€™ve been laid off, evicted, or otherwise having trouble making ends meet, you might try camping in the parking lot or on the leather couches inside.
If, however, youâ€™ve had enough of the squandering of our nationâ€™s wealth propping up a pyramid scheme that dwarfs Bernie Madoffâ€™s wildest dreams, you might consider sending your Representative a message on February first. Or perhaps you can convince your Senator that itâ€™s a bad idea to confirm a Treasury secretary who canâ€™t even use TurboTax.
In the cold, hard light of current events, and considering that the vast majority of income tax collected goes simply to cover interest payments on a national debt created by the same banking system we are bailing out, I ask again:
Why do you pay taxes?