Monday, May 09, 2016

Prince of thieves...

Having operated a construction and home building business for 42 years, I’ve seen and tried a few things that worked and a few things that didn’t work, and tried to abandon or make adjustments to the things that didn’t, and tweak the things that did. A few years ago, some ne’er-do-well cut the lock on our job trailer that was parked at a project we were involved with, and made off with several of our tools.

            In an effort to discourage such behavior in the future, we bolted and welded some larger and stronger hasps on the trailer and purchased some larger and stronger padlocks for the new and improved hardware. That all worked out well for a few years, until last spring when we arrived at a job site one to find the entire trailer had been stolen. When the trailer was later recovered in a cornfield 10 miles up the road, (in part because the mastermind behind the theft had apparently attempted to make the getaway with a 2- 5/16” coupler attached to a 1-7/8” ball hitch while speeding over a railroad crossing,) we discovered that the locks had been sawed on, pried on, and possibly chewed on to no avail.

             I couldn’t help but think if the crook had just slowed down a little for that railroad crossing, or had a deeper understanding of the mechanics of a ball hitch, our efforts at beefing up security would simply have resulted in losing more of our property instead of less. It also reminded me of our current tax system in this country.

            Last week, a song writer and singer by the name of Prince Rogers Nelson passed away. While I don’t know much about the man or his music, I suspect he was popular with a significant portion of the population, since his estate is estimated to be worth $300 million. You about have to figure a person with that kind of wealth is in the upper tax bracket, so he probably paid the federal government about $200 million in income taxes so they would let him keep the rest for a while. And depending on which state he lived in and where he made his money, he’s probably paid a few million in various state and local taxes along the way.

            While it might be hard to fathom that any one person would have over $200 million taken from them by the government, especially when they receive exactly the same services from the government that people who pay $2000.00, or even $200.00 receive, we also need to remember that the government isn’t finished with Mr. Nelson yet. Currently the government is licking its chops, and preparing to take another bite his earnings. Federal and state taxes will get another $150 million from the money he already paid over $200 million on to keep.

             As I said earlier, I don’t know much about the man, but apparently he worked hard enough and smart enough to provide a product that a lot of people wanted.  In a free society, that is how it is supposed to work.

             Our current tax system punishes hard work and success, and rewards sloth and failure. We can do better with a system of sales taxes and user fees to fund essential government services, and spread the cost to everyone that uses those services.

            I’ve heard some people say that as a nation we have lost our work ethic. I wonder if in fact, we have just allowed it to be taken from us.