“The power to tax is the power to destroy.”
— John Marshall
If you're getting this heavy feeling lately it may be because a little bit of 2016 business is weighing over us. Even though the Christmas trees have been down for a month the last phase of the season of giving is when we write that check to the government in the form of our annual income taxes.
Normally I'm a pretty generous person and don't mind giving out a few shekles to a worthy cause, but government is like a Dickens' character — only it asks for more so often you'd think it was running a PBS pledge drive.
We pay so many varied taxes that I'm amazed that any of us would ever dare walk around barefoot. Property, state, county, federal, school and sales to name a few, and at every transaction those in charge get to pinch a little off the top. Ironic how when the government takes money from you it's considered fiscal responsibility, but if the roles are reversed it's considered a felony.
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I might not mind the money grubbing as much if I was guaranteed that the money was being used to make our world a better place, but I look around and I have to wonder who's keeping track of the books, because a great deal of our precious economy is being splurged in some truly spectacular ways. True story: our government spent $150,000 in a study last year to see why politics stresses us out. (Maybe we're stressed because we paid for that kind of groundbreaking research).
Need more reason to pull your hair out? Do you know how much it cost us to have the leaders of the free world figure out why bugs are attracted to light bulbs? The answer to that important question would be a cool $65,000. Unfortunately there was no word on how many politicians it took to screw it in. If that knowledge is making you think of drinking heavily then you'll be refreshed to hear that a $1.3 million study was done in 2015 to learn why a koozie keeps beer cold on a hot day. The sheer amount of wastefulness is enough to make you run for the hills, but sadly that might not be the wisest choice either seeing as though the federal government gave scientists $900,000 to teach mountain lions to walk on a treadmill — so you know they're in better shape than you are.
These studies are out of this world. And in some cases they actually are, since over $1 million is being spent taste testing foods for a Mars mission that won't actually happen for a few decades. We don't have a crew or a ship but we have a menu if you needed some food for thought. The scary part is that when taxes take a bite out of you, the government already knows what flavor you are. And they're hungry!
Auburn native Bradley Molloy's column appears here each Sunday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org