The new expanded Child Tax Credit, the Tax Code, and spineless politicians (apologies for the redundancy)
Reading the MSN Money article, How to tell if you'll get the child tax credit, I was struck by how many Americans apparently believe that the U.S. tax system owes them something, beyond anything they may have contributed to the system. It's one thing to believe, rightly or wrongly, that you're over-taxed; it's something else entirely to believe that you are entitled to have the government give you money over and above whatever you may have paid in taxes.
This situation finds its roots in the social engineering facets of our tax laws. Not satisfied with raising money to fund government activities, Congress, as well as our various state legislatures, have extended tax policy to benefit those they favor and penalize those they don't like. This has been a huge mistake, and the ripples of consequence emanating from their misguided actions have had many negative effects that no one could foresee.
One of the results is the fairly common belief that tax relief should apply at least as much to those who pay little or no taxes as it does to those who pay tremendous amounts of tax. This attitude just makes no sense to me. How can you provide tax relief to someone who effectively pays no tax? Further, when someone only pays, for example, $1000 per year in income tax, how can you expect to balance that against the tens or hundreds of thousands in taxes paid by more affluent people?
Another example of this "give me tax relief just because someone else is getting it" attitude is cited in the MSN Money article. One of Ms. Weston's readers thinks it's unfair that parents of kids aged 17 or older won't get any benefit from the new Child Tax Credit. This just shows that this reader is unaware that the current tax code provides for the Child Tax Credit for children under the age of 17. While I'm not sure why the Tax Code was changed in the past to only benefit children 16 and younger, but this expansion of the Credit is obviously built on that foundation. Focus on the underlying tax law. Well, I suppose that means you have to understand what it is before you can focus on it, and that's another problem. Too many people don't bother to understand even the high points of the Tax Code, much less any details.
And this just points out another problem with our arcane Tax Code: it's so complicated, even people who deal with it every day can't understand it all. And it's gotten so complicated because Congress and state legislatures have wielded tax law as a weapon for their own pet interests, instead of limiting it to its core purpose: generating revenue for the government.
Our tax laws are out of control. We need politicians who are focused on the honor and sacrifice that public service is based upon. Politicians whose personal integrity and character make them willing to do what's right, even if it hurts them personally. They could take a page from the book of many true public servants: police, firefighters, military servicemembers and others who make sacrifices every day because of their underlying motivation to make the world a better place. Those who give up much to protect others. Those who, all too often, give their lives in the service of their community and their country. Similar examples of sacrifice in elective office in this country are so scarce as to be non-existent.
I could go on for a many, many more paragraphs on these subjects, but I'll lose focus and probably bore my readers (all three of you), so I'll save the rest for further blog entries. Hopefully that will help me parcel it out better, and help each entry to target specific subjects.
As an addendum to yesterday's entry, I took my handheld radio with me on my trip to California, hoping to chat a bit with a few fellow Amateur Radio operators while I was there. Admittedly, I didn't spend a whole bunch of time trying to establish contact, but I never heard a single peep out of anyone. From my son's apartment, I could only hit one repeater, so I suppose that happened to be one that wasn't very active. I was a little disappointed about that, but there were plenty of other benefits from the trip that completely overshadowed that small shortcoming.
I spent last week in Monterey, CA, visiting my son, Boyd Jr, and my daughter-in-law and granddaughter, Melissa and Kiara. My daughter Kristin was there, as well, so it made for a great week. In addition to spending time with my loved ones (whom I haven't seen since last year), I had a chance to revisit the Monterey area. I was stationed at the Presidio in 1975, so it was interesting to see what had changed, and what hadn't.
One of the first places I wanted to see was the old two-story apartment building where I lived back then. I was certain it would have been razed and replaced with something nicer, but it was still standing, and had even been fixed up a good bit. Of course, I didn't have a look inside, but it looked like a much nicer place than it was 28 years ago.
Fort Ord was the big military installation when I was there before, but it's closed now. Some of the housing is still in use (which is great for the many junior enlisted folks at the Presidio, I'm sure), but most of the entire fort is boarded up. Much of it looks like a cross between a ghost town and a slum. It wasn't a very pleasant-looking place back in the 70's, but it's really depressing today. Oh, and they still have a PX and Commissary, so that's a great benefit for the military folks.
The Presidio seems much larger than it was in the past. As I recall, the post more or less ended at "the top of the hill" where most of the barracks were located. Although the Presidio extended beyond that point, I never once ventured back there. Well, I did last week, and many, many barracks, sports facilities and a PX were constructed. I don't know what those new barracks were like on the inside, but they had a very attractive exterior. The sports facilities included a gym and a field (it looked like a football field through the trees) upholstered with artificial turf. Very nice.
Time had also twisted my memory of where various things were located. I had a hard time locating the general location of the building that housed my classroom back in the 70's, and when I finally found it, it was still among about five other identical buildings, so I couldn't figure out exactly which one was "mine."
We also visited the beach in Pacific Grove, which was as beautiful as ever, and Fisherman's Wharf in the heart of Monterey. There's some beautiful scenery around there, and I was glad to share it with my young 'uns.
But it's good to be back home, too. I'll miss seeing Boyd Jr, Kristin, Missy, and of course Kiwi, but that's just the way it is. Never enough time together, too long apart.