Happy Income Tax Filing Day.
Then again, what's so happy about it?
If you owe money to the federal and/or state government, it's due today. If the federal or state government owes you, it's been holding your money - and won't pay you any interest on that loan.
And though Washington reaped a record revenue crop in the first five months of Fiscal Year 2014, this ominous bottom-line shadow lingers:
In 5¼ years under President Barack Obama, we've added nearly $7 trillion to our now-record - and still-rising - $17.5 trillion national debt.
Yes, red ink also gushed forth under George W. Bush, with the debt elevating nearly $5 trillion on his eight-year White House watch.
Yes, Bush left Obama with a mammoth economic mess.
But as Mitt Romney reminded some wealthy donors nearly two years ago, 47 percent of Americans "pay no income tax." After that reckless, albeit accurate, remark was revealed less than two months before the 2012 general election, Romney paid a heavy political price.
So Obama faces a hard sell convincing more rich folks already bearing a historically heavy tax load to pay more of what he calls their "fair share."
And now you face a Tax Day trivia test.
This and VAT
Who said - or wrote ...? (answers at column's end):
1) "In short, it is a paradoxical truth is that the tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low, and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now."
2) "Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."
3) "We can start in the right direction by replacing the 35 percent Corporate Tax with a 7 percent Value Added Tax (VAT); pay for government in two years rather than 10 - or never; start rebuilding our economy and start competing in globalization with China."
4) "Inflation is taxation without legislation."
5) "Even businessmen, who rob and steal and cheat from people every day, even they have to pay taxes."
And even many Americans who pay no income taxes pay other taxes, including "contributions" to Social Security and Medicare (both of which employers must match), sales taxes, gas taxes and various "fees" - a term government officials use to avoid calling them taxes.
As for climbing prices, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, whose New York Times columns occasionally run on our Commentary page, reprised one of his most familiar themes last month with another assurance "that printing money in a depressed economy isn't inflationary."
What about printing money in a "jobless recovery"?
The title of an intriguing new book by flat-tax booster Steve Forbes and Elizabeth Ames links a timely alarm to a hint of hope - "Money: How the Destruction of the Dollar Threatens the Global Economy - and What We Can Do About It."
They warn: "Printing money is not creating wealth. Had mercantilist monarchs succeeded in their quest to turn lead into gold, they still would have failed to realize their dream of creating wealth. Gold would have become so plentiful that it would have lost its value. Enough said."
OK, so "What We Can Do About it," according to Forbes and Ames, is return to the gold standard - a radical suggestion doesn't boost their credibility stock.
Yet you don't need economist credentials to know the sad history of governments that print too much money they can't back.
Nor do you need deep insight into human nature to recognize the timeless wisdom of this quote in your final tax-trivia question:
6) "When there is an income tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount of income."
1) President John F. Kennedy, in a 1962 speech to the Economic Club of New York.
2) President Ronald Reagan, in a 1986 speech to White House Conference on Small Business.
3) Ernest F. "Fritz" Hollings, our state's junior U.S. senator for more than 36 years and our senior senator for two more, in a guest column in this newspaper last April.
4) Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, on "The Phil Donahue Show" in 1979.
5) Truck driver Lennie Pike (played by Jonathan Winters), in "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," a 1963 cinematic classic about contagious greed.
6) Plato, in the "The Republic, Book 1," in about 380 B.C.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.
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