Monday, February 18, 2008

Rendering to Caesar

I just got done filing my taxes. It is still early in the year so you probably know that I am not paying into the IRS. You can tell people who are getting money back with how quickly the file their taxes after getting their W2’s in the mail. It may come on January 31 and their taxes are filed and off to the IRS electronically on February 1 in anticipation of their bonus check in three weeks. Others will wait until midnight of April 15th and slide it in the mailbox at the last possible moment to make sure the check will float for the longest period of time until it hits their bank. I am somewhere in the middle. I don’t pay in and I don’t get back so I am in no hurry, it is more of a nuisance than trauma or bonus check excitement.

Taxes are an interesting phenomenon. Taxes are what helped start our country in rebellion to England. Taxation without representation has been an issue every year since. Too much, not enough, taxing the wealthy, taxing the middle class, taxing death, taxing birth, taxing luxury, taxing winnings and even taxing losses. As much as I like the idea of a postcard tax form I realize it is not practical but my telling the government that I don’t owe them anything takes 16 pages of tax forms is not practical either. Now that I can file electronically at least I don’t waist all the paper and postage to do it but it is still a bit frustrating.

Republicans will tell you that they want to cut your taxes because they think you can handle your money better than the government. Democrats will tell you that they don’t want to cut your taxes but they want the rich to pay more because you have proven you can’t handle it better than the government. Taxes support our schools, our military, and they support many of the things we take for granted but there is also a lot of waste in our distribution. Since we are human and the people who distribute our taxes are human and the people who receive the support are human you will inevitably find that there will be abuse and waste. We can demand accountability from our political leaders for our tax money but that costs more money.

I wait at a light and see a scruffy looking man limping by me and carrying a beat up piece of cardboard with “Hungry, homeless, God bless” scrawled on it and I wonder about all that charitable contributions I just listed, I wonder about all the money for social services I just paid in taxes, I wonder whether it is a scam, and I wonder about whether I should look him in the eyes or ignore him. I wonder what happens when you render to Caesar and he turns out to be a people-hating tyrant. I wonder how my few dollars will impact a trillion dollar budget one way or another. Then I quit wondering, roll down my window and hand him a fresh bottle of water.

Minding your Spiritual Business

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