The Tax Man Cometh
By Beverly Hicks Burch
I bet you’re reading the title of this blog and thinking you know what it’s all about…well, you do…and you don’t…kinda…sorta… Clear as mud isn’t it? It’s like taxes and a lot of other things in the good ol’ US of A at the moment.
Let me explain and give a little background and tell you where I’m coming from and I will share a couple of personal experiences with you to illustrate. But, first let me ask you a question. Do you know how long you worked this year to pay off your taxes? How long did you work for the government…to pay for the taxes imposed by various governmental agencies? According to the Tax Foundation this year’s Tax Freedom Day was April 30th…four days later this year than last year…but, surprisingly down from previous years when the average American had to work well into the month of May to pay off their tax debt. The idea of an income tax is a relatively new one in this country. The concept was accepted and ratified by Congress in the Sixteenth Amendment in 1913. This amendment gave Congress the right to impose a permanent income tax on the American public.
Every pay check a big chunk of your check is taken out in what is called FICA taxes. Do you know what FICA taxes are? A simplified definition would be – those are you Social Security (6.2% of your wages) taxes. These taxes are part of FDR’s New Deal of the 1930’s Depression relief programs and promises. In the 1960’s Medicare was added to be covered by the FICA taxes.
Why on earth is Bev thinking and writing about this subject? Well, I read something the other morning and it also reflects back on a personal trial I had to go through. Let me share with you…sounds “touchy feely” doesn’t it?
One morning I was going through some magazines, sifting through, throwing out, etc. In a news magazine I came across a couple of articles juxtaposed on the same page that I found very interesting. One was by John Stossel and the other was anonymous.
Mr. Stossel was making the point of how large government has become. He made some interesting points:
- Springfield, NJ economist, consultant and forecaster Gary Shilling reports that 52.6% of Americans receive substantial public (read governmental) aid, assistance or monies. This is up from 49.4% in the year 2000. In the year 1950 that number was 28.3%. Mr. Shilling predicts that by the year 2040 60% of Americans will be living off taxpayers. That my friend is you and me and our children and grandchildren. The funds will come out of our pockets and we will work how many hours, how many months it takes to pay for that? It would be interesting to know if those numbers are based on current population factors and/or if they factor in the possibility of adding 11 – 12 million illegal aliens to our burgeoning entitlement system and government trough.
- 1 out of 5 (that translates into 20%) Americans work for the government, or a firm that depends on taxpayer funding.
- 1 in 5 (or 20%) draws Social Security or a Federal pension. This number will grow as the baby boomer generation ages and moves on to Social Security.
- 9 million people are on food stamps
- 2 million receive housing subsidies
- 5 million go to school on federal taxpayer dollars – many student loans are defaulted and many are paid off at a discount
- The Cato Institute estimates nearly 1,700 federal subsidy programs spending billions of dollars each year.
Now, also on the same page was another article. This article reported a survey conducted by the Mexican daily El Universal. The results were interesting at least and stunning at worst. According to the survey:
- 45% of Mexican citizens have at least one relative living north of the border in the USA
- 61% said the money sent back home to Mexico from those relatives is “very important” to their welfare
Whether here legally or illegally, authorities estimate Mexican nationals living in the USA send $23 billion back to Mexico in “remittances”. These remittances are Mexico’s second largest source of foreign income…behind their petroleum income. The Pew Hispanic Center reports that many US banks and credits unions are now setting up programs to help legal and illegal nationals send these remittances back to their homeland. Author’s note: If these nationals are paid “off the books” as is done with many day laborers, house help, child care workers, farm laborers, etc. they are paid in cash and therefore, no taxes are paid on these monies.
First, don’t get me wrong. I am a student of history. I have seen our regal Lady Liberty in New York harbor and she is inspiring. I have been many places in this grand big country of ours and I can tell you one thing. We are truly a melting pot. We are a land of immigrants…English, Irish, Italian, German, Polish, Russian, French, African, Asian, Spanish, Mexican and more… All of you reading this at this very moment had ancestors that came to this country from some where…some earlier than others…even our Native Americans probably crossed the Bering Strait to become the Native Americans.
But, our ancestors did one thing…they had a different attitude than we see today. They began to merge…to meld…to become one, to make one country…this United States of America.
We do have a problem with illegal aliens…regardless of nationality. Let me ask you this question…Do you think you could go to any nation on this planet and behave like the illegals do in this country? Take the same liberties? Take advantage of the system? Of the people? Of the economy? Of the government? Not in a New York minute…
To be remedial let me make a point here: If I had some flour, some butter, some apples, some sugar, spices and a few other ingredients that’s all they are…separate ingredients, each to their own, by themselves, alone in separate stacks and locations. But, if I combine and meld these ingredients together, I have not diminished them. No, I have made a wonderful, juicy, tasty, succulent apple pie. And what could be more American than Apple Pie? That pie is the sum of its parts just like America is the sum of her people when we meld together and become one nation.
One of the points in the debate on the illegal alien situation has been the point that they are honest, hard working people, paying taxes and contributing to our economy. I have no problem if that is true and with legal nationals in the country doing so. I have serious questions about that when I see $23 billion of our economy being hijacked to another country and with the issues I raised above…monies being paid “off the books” and taxes avoided. I would pose this question: Would the government of Mexico or any other country allow the reverse to happen? Would they allow $23 billion of their economy to be sent North of the border in remittance by legal or illegal aliens in their country?
Now, let me tell you a dirty little secret. This system, the “Great American I’m Going To Take Care Of You System” doesn’t work…at least not for everyone. I know. I found out the hard way. Let me share a very painful experience and at very eye opening time in my life…in more ways than one. Please bear with me here…there is a point…
So, what does a middle class white woman know about being disenfranchised? Well, here’s just part of my story… On May 24, 2001, my son’s 21st birthday, after almost 27 years of marriage, my ex, Gomez the Unremarkable decided to walk out. He had a new honey in his life. A co-worker, Morticia…one with money…that’s really important to him. After much deception, lying, cover-up and just general over all low life behavior he finally confessed to the fact they had been carrying on for about 18 months.
When I looked back over those 18 months, I realized there was a point when he tried to convince me sell our home and buy a home close to her and her then husband and three children. She had confessed to her husband she and Gomez had planned on staying with us until she had seen 12 year old son through college, THEN they were going to dump us and finally get together. If Gomez and I had moved down by them it would have been more convenient for Gomez and Morticia. It was also about this time that Gomez would go on rants about how he couldn’t understand why my father couldn’t “gift” us with large chunks of cash…like $10,000 at a time like a co-worker had done with his family. (It wasn’t enough my dad had given us the down payment for our home to begin with…I look back now and see that if he could have gotten his hands on those larger sums of cash, he could have moved into the neighborhood closer to Morticia,)
When our parting of ways happened our son was out of state attending SERE training in conjunction with the USAF and the Alabama National Guard. It was a grueling time for him…and for me. I was in a type of SERE training myself…for those of you not familiar with SERE it is a type of survival training.
Here is where it gets interesting…and this is why I told you all of that. When Gomez left, he cleaned out the bank accounts…yep, he was one of those. He also told me he didn’t give a f**king g*damn what I did for healthcare. You see, I had already had lung cancer twice and had been diagnosed with multiple autoimmune disorders, Raynaud’s syndrome, Fibromyalgia and other chronic health problems.
I was what they called a displaced homemaker…and Gomez was on a tear. I had worked full time years earlier, but after our son was born, stayed at home, other than some occasional part-time work when I paid into the system. I had helped Gomez run some home-based businesses (one he started with funds from my father) while he worked at the office (at a job my dad had a hand in getting him) and for an extended time I did free-lance work for a former employer at home. All the time, I paid my taxes…even in our home based businesses. I had also home-schooled our son for several years so he could take advantage of the opportunities of travel associated with the ex’s work. I had been a very busy, very involved wife, mother and woman.
In addition I helped Gomez restore and renovate two homes and add onto one home. I was the caretaker, chauffer, bookkeeper, nurse, cook, assistant renovator and any other job needed of the family. Gomez went to work, cut the grass and on occasion took the garbage out.
Then, my health began to take its toll and he didn’t like that…he told me so when he left. He said, “I didn’t want to take care of you, I didn’t like taking care of you, but, I did, so there.” Compassionate cuss, huh? (Really big newsflash – uh, no, Gomez you didn’t take care of me. Remember that little thing called a vow? Sorry little guy, you failed the test.) I guess he forgot I took care of him when he broke his neck in a car accident after we had been married only 18 months.
I had skills, but very poor health…and he knew that.
And, there is a reason I tell you all of that. You see, during the divorce Gomez got himself a lawyer whose father was one of the only three judges in our little county in Alabama where our divorce was being adjudicated. Yep. Bet you can see this train wreck coming. I got a good attorney and dectective that caught Gomez and Morticia in the act of very compromising situations. But, because my attorney wasn’t part of the county good-ol’-boy system a lot of my contempt charges against him and other papers against Gomez were “lost”.
In addition, during the hearing for temporary support after my attorney made the point that I was a woman in poor health and had been out of the workplace for over 20+ years, the ex’s attorney got up, waved his hand and said “oh yeah, you’ve had your gall bladder or something removed” which at the time I still had, but, have since have had removed while being married to Tall & Handsome. Let me tell you…surgery with a man like him is a totally different experience! It’s all about compassion which T & H has in spades. At the time of the divorce, I’d only had 60% of my left lung removed and a portion of my right lung removed because of cancer (and I was a non-smoker). Gomez knew that but, allowed his attorney to bellow on about “gall bladders”. Disingenuous and mendacity…they were birds of a feather.
Gomez became very upset that I hired a lawyer…he felt that he should have been the only one to have legal representation. He told me, “I told my attorney you were reasonable and would get your legal help off the internet.” He marched up to the house with an offer for my dad and me to look over and said, “If you don’t accept this by such and such time, it won’t be here for you.” In other words…I’m playing hardball and will break your back. My dad knew I needed legal help.
When I got an attorney, Gomez went ballistic. He played voodoo economics with the support the judge mandated…got away with it and left me penniless. One month he mailed me two dollar bills and three coins taped on a sheet of paper. (That’s when he decided he wanted one of my sewing machines.) He told my father I needed to be taught a lesson and he said he wanted to see me “wrong” for once. Huh? Newsflash…I was wrong big time…on November 27, 1974. Yes, girls, I learned the hard way…love shouldn’t hurt.
I had no income and he knew it…and reveled in it. He was on a tear to destroy me. He called my aunt in Florida and told her that without him, I would be dead in five years. (Question: If he really believed that, does that sound like attempted premeditated murder or unbelievable self importance?) He also told her that my elderly parents had deep pockets and could take care of me, but forgot to mention the fact they have a mentally and physically disabled daughter at home full time.
Why am I telling you this? Remember the “system”? “The Great American I’m Going to Take Care of You System”? Well, it doesn’t work for everyone. I know. I tried to avail myself of it during this traumatic time. When I needed my meds, food, doctor visits, utility bills paid…but, nope…uh huh, not for Bev…I tried more agencies, both non-profit and government, than I care to remember…and the response was the same…“You don’t fit the profile.” Huh, what the heck does that mean? I had a need, I’ve paid my taxes, I’ve donated…now, why don’t I fit the profile? I was up to my eyeballs in need!
My next “light bulb” experience came a couple of years later. I had gone to work for a large insurance company in their hybrid claims/call center after my divorce. I loved the job. It was a job with purpose. It was also a job with high stress and demands…a job that takes it toll on a person with autoimmune disorders and Fibromyalgia and the company itself was not very concerned with the disabled. Fortunately, I did have long-term disability coverage.
I gave it a valiant try, but my health really started to decline. I collapsed at work one day and had to be taken to the ER…that little ride cost me over $1,000 out of pocket…money I didn’t really have…you see, I got the first and second mortgage (which included paying for a Ford Explorer Gomez added to the second mortgage about six weeks before he left)…and one morning on the way to work I blacked out and rear-ended the vehicle in front of me. Fortunately I was coming to a stop sign but, since I was in the process of coming to a stop there was no damage to either car.
By the time my specialist removed my from work, I was in unbearable pain, had gone almost a week without sleep, could only manage to sit at my station without an ice pack and was on steroid treatment. I went through my FMLA, short term disability and then started the process for my long term disability. It was a tough haul.
One of the things I had to do during the process was apply for my Social Security Disability. And, this my friends, was the other light bulb moment. Remember me telling you about all of those taxes? And all of those years I paid into the system? After filling out numerous forms, going through several interviews, sending doctor file after file (which I had to pay for), I finally got my verdict. Denied. Why? I hadn’t worked enough quarters before I was declared disabled to get my disability…even though I’ve paid thousands of dollars into the system…and even though there are people that have never worked…and aren’t citizens that are getting some kind of Social Security, Medicare, Aid for Dependant Children for themselves or their family. Gee, wish I’d known that years ago!
I also discovered that all those years I sat up through the night getting an engraving job finished while Gomez slept or I sat on a John Deere tractor cutting a soccer field…well, Gomez took the full self-employed FICA tax credit for that instead of dividing it with me in our home based businesses. The income I would have gotten from my SS disability would have supplemented my long term disability and made a big difference in my life…and I paid into the system for years. C’est la vie…
These have been extremely frustrating lessons to discover. I’ve always had a soft spot for the underdog and seeing the right thing done. To see the system not work…not just once, but on several occasions in my case has been, well, it is disheartening. But, I am a survivor. So far, I have beat cancer twice and on a daily basis I deal with other chronic health issues. I almost died in October 2005, and I survived that episode. I’ve had a support system in faith, family and I met and fell in love with a man with big blue eyes and a heart as big as the sky in his southwestern home state. Compassion like his is rare not only in men…but, in most people nowadays.
I fear for people who do not understand that the system does not and will not always work for you. Just because the tax man cometh, doesn’t mean your fair share will be there should something go awry in your life…and that’s wrong…very wrong. Yes, this should be a land of equal opportunity and chances, but we do not promise equal outcome…that is left up to the individual. We have to fix the system so that it works for all Americans and so that America continues to be the great nation our Founding Fathers laid the foundation for.
© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.