Friday, April 9, 2010

Feeling like a jackass

Once upon a time a community of wild mules, donkeys, burros, and jackasses roamed free.  They lived in complete freedom.  But there were problems.  They were susceptible to predator attack.  There were no rules preventing mules from abusing donkeys (or vice-versa).  There were no protections against feeding ground encroachment.

So they formed a Pact.  This Pact established common defense against predators and rules to protect against abuses and feeding grounds violations.  Most importantly, the Pact gave assurances to each and every one of the assembled that their freedoms would never be violated.

The Pact established leaders who would represent the animals.  These leaders would have a special wagon to be pulled by the other animals from place to place so that the leaders could perform their duties.

At first, because the wagon was small and the leaders and wagon workers few, it took but a few of the beasts to pull the wagon.  This responsibility was shared by all.  The burden was light, and the demands few.

But over time the leaders started to feel that the Pact restricted them too much.  They became convinced that they could do "amazing things" if those limits were, well, limited.  They were engulfed in an awful hubris.  The "amazing things" they wanted to do were more important to them than the freedoms promised by the Pact.

The leaders were shrewd.  They knew that any overt attempt to break the Pact would result in rebellion.  So over time, bit by bit, the leaders chipped away at the Pact.  By making rules that bordered on violating the Pact without actually doing so, the leaders set precedents that made other rules that DID violate the Pact seem okay.  It was an incrementalist approach.  It was brilliant.

The leaders engaged in a "divide and conquer" strategy.  A number of the new rules were designed to create "favored" classes.  Mules had been greatly wronged in the early days of the Pact.  The leaders used this fact to make rules that allowed many of the mules to ride in the wagon with them.

Then animals without sufficient grazing lands were deemed a "favored" class and were beneficiaries of rules that allowed them to ride on the wagon as well.

The new rules required making the wagon bigger - a whole lot bigger.  Now there were large numbers of animals on the wagon - leaders, wagon workers, and "favored" classes - and many animals were required to pull the wagon.  No, required is too nice of a word.  They were compelled to do so.

Some of the animals - particularly the donkeys and jackasses - began to resent the leaders and the demands placed upon them.  They were branded as uncaring, bigoted, and evil by the leaders.  Those on the wagon certainly agreed.  And, unfortunately, there were enough donkeys, burros, and jackasses who believed the leaders were simply trying to help the "less fortunate" to prevent the donkeys and jackasses from pressuring the leaders to rescind the new rules.

More rules were created.  Some rules limited the amount of feeding ground a beast could have.  Others forced animals to cede some of their feeding ground to animals on the wagon.  The amount of time animals spent pulling the wagon was then linked to the amount of feeding ground they controlled.  More and more animals began to climb aboard the wagon, some as wagon workers, but most as "favored" classes.

Large numbers of burros began to enter the area.  Some pulled the wagon, as had the burros who had been there at the start of the Pact.  But some cried for "favored" status, and were granted seats on the wagon.  Many - WAY too many - simply took over feeding grounds and avoided pulling the wagon.

Over time the situation worsened to the point that there were nearly as many animals on the wagon as there were pulling the wagon. 

Most of those pulling the wagon were jackasses.

What prompted this little parable?  This.
Tax Day is a dreaded deadline for millions, but for nearly half of U.S. households it's simply somebody else's problem.

About 47 percent will pay no federal income taxes at all for 2009. Either their incomes were too low, or they qualified for enough credits, deductions and exemptions to eliminate their liability. That's according to projections by the Tax Policy Center, a Washington research organization.
Wait, it gets better.
The bottom 40 percent, on average, make a profit from the federal income tax, meaning they get more money in tax credits than they would otherwise owe in taxes. For those people, the government sends them a payment.

"We have 50 percent of people who are getting something for nothing," said Curtis Dubay, senior tax policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation.
Feel like a jackass yet? If you don't, you're probably part of the problem.