When I hear about the hapless celebrity who is fleeced by his unsavory accountant for millions, I marvel at how stupid some people can be -- until, of course, tax day rolls around and I realize my accountant, were he a less virtuous man, could do the same.
Yes, our tax system is fairly complex. And complexity is what makes it work. If Jane Taxpayer figures out she spends more than three months of her year working for Joe Biden, well, she might be annoyed.
Fact is she should feel blessed. As our vice president once posited, paying taxes is patriotic. So it's worrisome that fewer and fewer Americans are asked to participate in the ethical work of paying off General Motors' $4.3 billion second-half losses or subsidizing wind farms in Montana.
According to the Tax Foundation, this year the top 10 percent of earners are on the hook for about 73 percent of all the income taxes collected by Washington.
On the flip side, nearly 50 percent of households -- because they don't make enough or they have various deductions -- do not pay any income tax whatsoever. (Your payroll taxes "fund" your own stake in Social Security and Medicare.)
If there's a smoother way to spread the wealth, I'd love to hear about it. But if government is a force of righteousness -- a wondrous $3 trillion gift that saves lives and imbues America with hope -- why is it that so many of its citizens aren't fully invested in the magic?
To be fair, as burdensome as income taxes seem to everyone, most of us are disconnected from the genuine and growing cost of government. Tax payments have been declining for the majority of Americans (good for the economy and your freedom), while government spending is increasing.
Now, I hate people who are richer than I am as much as the next guy. But how long can we keep relying on the wealthy?
The total income taxes paid by the top 1 percent of earners as a share of gross domestic product has doubled since the early '80s. At the same time, the bottom 95 percent of earners pay a significantly smaller share. I'm not an economist (sorcerers!), but this strikes me as an unsustainable policy.