So one of the guys at Panera Bread this morning asked my view on the FLAT TAX or FAIR TAX or whatever.
My reponse was that my objection to the present tax code is that rich guys pay a lower percentage of their income in taxes than I do.
Why is that? I use most of the money I get to buy stuff. I have very little left to tax shelter in one way or another. Not only that, I can't afford some fancy accountant to do my taxes for me. So I'm on my own. Now my inability to save much might be attributed to my being lazy or wasteful, but those, in fact, are not the main reasons.
RICH GUYS only use a small percentage of their income to live. Most of the rest they can hide. And they have accountants and lawyers who are much better (because they make a lot more) than the ones employed by the government to help them. So they officially pay a higher rate than me, but under the present tax code they have plenty of perfectly legal ways to keep what they have from being taxable.
So common sense tells me a genuinely loopholeless FLAT TAX might even the playing field to my advantage. Common sense also tells me that Congress, which reaches majorities by building coalitions of diverse interests, will never come up with such a tax.
But what really ticks me off about paying taxes is DEDUCTIONS. I should have a big, six-figure salary (given that I'm ranked among the top 50 political theory professors in the country), but I don't. Contrary to what you're thinking, I'm not blaming my college for this. Not making the big bucks is one downside of living in the sticks.
Fortunately, I usually have modest sources of other income from writing, editing, speaking, and even blogging. On that income, I'm self-employed. So I have to pay the self-employment tax. That, combined with state and national income taxes, would make most of my extra income disappear. (The people who really get a raw deal under the present tax code aren't really people like me, but highly industrious middle-class people who are completely self-employed.)
Fortunately again, there are many deductions I can take, almost too many. Not only stuff like professional travel, but even, say, my books, journals, newspapers, and CABLE BILL. Why cable bill? Because I've published and blogged on and made a buck or two talking and writing about TV, movies, etc. (as I hope you've noticed). Plus, they have NEWS on TV.
Without the services of a fancy accountant, I have to figure out what these deductions are for myself. And in many areas it's just impossible to know where, under the law, I should draw the line. Politics about everything! So why can't I deduct the expenses for every move I make and everything I read or see? (Surely you can hire an accountant, you might say. Well, my personal situation is pretty hard to get hold of for your average numbers person. And some people like to cut their own grass. Others like to do their own taxes. I'm in the latter category.)
So this guy at Panera told me about a friend of his who writes mystery novels. She has them published at vanity presses, but she can still show they make a little money. Her next one will be about Norway. And so she's figured out she can write off her trip there, which might mainly be a vacation (who knows?)
How can I write off my summer vacation(s), I asked myself? By blogging about them! So let me share the first of many stories about my summer vacation to the mountains of North Carolina.
Due to an internet, midweek special, my wife and I were able to spend a couple of days at the historic GROVE PARK INN in Asheville, NC. It's very classy; President Obama has stayed there twice. It's a little large and convention-oriented to be hyper-luxurious, but it's plenty luxurious for us.
One thing can't be denied: The Inn has a fabulous view from its elevated porch, one that includes a stunning golf course, forests, the quirky but riveting skyline of the city of Asheville, and the North Carolina mountains (which are more green and beautiful than the Rockies).
A lady next to me commented: "Well, the view's nice, but it would be better with a lake." It would, in fact, be better with a lake.
More to come...