Does everyone have their W-2's yet? This week marks the official beginning of tax season -- woohoo! Watching my Dad pull his hair out every April 14th really scarred me for life because the second I get my last gub'ment document, I sit down at the computer and I don't get up until I'm ready to file. It drives my wife nuts. I don't like the tediousness of it and I sure don't like fighting for every deduction I can get but I hate having that black cloud hanging over my head any longer than I have to.
Looking at a W-2 reminds us exactly what it costs to live and work in this city, county, state, and country. When we're confronted with the cost, it's natural to think about what we get in return. And that's when politics rears its ugly head. After all, 80% of legislation comes down to “how are we going to spend this cash?” (Note: 19% is “How are we going to get this cash” while the remaining 1% is “how are we going to pay down debt with this cash.”)* But it's not just any cash, is it? It's your cash. And parting with it hurts.
So it's not surprising that tax season is when we are inundated with stories about bridges-to-nowhere, tax-evading federal workers, million dollar ant studies in Zimbabwe, and some senator's latest barrel o' pork. A lot of that is infuriating stuff, really it is, but it's just as infuriating in October as it is in February, March, or April. I imagine that if state and federal budget negotiations took place during tax season, we'd be more apt to express our feelings to our representatives.
What I suggest is this: that righteous indignation that you feel during tax season...hang on to it. Grumbling between February and April is pointless. What we should have complained about has already been signed into law, what we'll wish we had complained about next year isn't even on the table yet. Come this fall, pull that anger back out and call your representative. They want to hear from you and they make it crazy-simple to get in touch with them by phone, email, or fax. They honestly spend a lot of (your) money to keep the lines of communication to their constituents open.
I have to believe that our representatives want to do the right thing if for no other reason than to get re-elected. And despite the fact that we all complain about the job our representatives do, how many of us can say that we've actually made our feelings known to one of them? They're not psychic. Democracy demands participation, folks, and going to the polls, while vitally important, isn't enough. Make your thoughts known; you'll feel better and you just might make a difference.
*Ed. Note: Those percentages are completely satirical...