Did you know that the average taxpayer in the US takes about 13 hours to do their tax return, that they pay over $200 for tax prep fees, or that if they want to call the IRS for help, they wait about 22 minutes on average to get through if they even get through at all?
These statistics offer a glimpse into just how convoluted and stress-inducing tax filing in the US is. And with Tax Day upon us, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who thinks otherwise.
But why exactly is the US tax system so complicated? Why do we even pay taxes? How does the government spend our hard-earned tax dollars?
In today’s episode, Dylan attempts to answer these questions and more by exploring the history of taxation in the US, discussing the current problems with our tax system, and breaking down the many different taxes we pay and why we pay them.
- [01:35] The difference between tax filing overseas and tax filing in the US
- [05:52] A brief history of taxation in the US
- [13:48] The problem with tax preparation services
- [19:46] The different kinds of taxes we pay
- [23:32] How line items in the federal budget are allocated
- [26:21] Why our tax system is complicated
- [30:09] The key to a better tax system
[00:00:00] Intro: Forget the civilized path. It’s time to break the chains of debt and dependency, take control of our financial lives, and live free. This is the Fiscally Savage Podcast.
[00:00:15] Dylan Bain: Hello and welcome to Fiscally Savage. Happy Friday, everybody. If you’re new here on Fiscally Savage, we on these Friday shows try to take one thing in the news and go a little bit deeper. But today is April 14th, which is one day before April 15th, which as everybody knows is Tax Day. Now, I wanna just start off this episode but I’m gonna be talking about taxes, which I know is everyone’s favorite subject. And if me being me, we’re gonna go on a little bit of a ride here. But right off the bat, I need to premise this episode by stating that yes, I am a CPA. I’m an accountant by trade, but I’m not a tax CPA. And so before I get going today, and this is gonna apply to Tuesday’s podcast as well, this has to be hashtag not tax advice. There is no reason that anyone should ever listen to me for tax advice. And I say this because I’m not a tax accountant. Like yes, I’m a CPA, but a CPA is more like a term like doctor, so I don’t work on that side of the house. I do other things. I’m an auditor. I understand systems and new data analytics and those types of things. So please, please, please do not consider anything I say today or ever tax advice. Can I do your taxes? Sure. Should I do your taxes? Absolutely not.
[00:01:35] Okay, so let’s just get into it. One of the things about Tax Day in the United States that just blows my mind is what it was like when I lived overseas. And I wanna just paint you a picture. When you are an American and you’ve grown up in the American system, if you move overseas — and I know that a lot of my listeners are former military or current military, and I wanna first off say thank you for your service, but I also wanna say that’s not the same thing as being an expat in a different country because you still have a very American system around you. In my case, I got on a plane and flew to Taiwan and hoped that by the time I landed, I would’ve had a job from one of the many applications that I had sent out. I arrived there in this Chinese-speaking country and I had a job thankfully. Now, I had to find an apartment with very little money, and then I live — proceeded to live there. I got an apartment and I started shopping, started learning the local language and different traditions and all those things. But when it came time to file my taxes, I didn’t have enough income in Taiwan to file taxes in the United States, but I did have to file them in Taiwan. And you might think to yourself, my God, that’s gotta be terrible. Like this is what every American thinks because at Tax Day, we all have to sit down and we have to go through all these documents and we could buy a software package or maybe not buy a software package or hire an accountant and spend all this stuff and there’s deductions and credits and W-2s and 1099s and — there’s more than one type of 1099? Like it is so stress-inducing in the United States. Like it’s just — it is inhumane how much of our lives have to be taken up in filing taxes, and that is what I was expecting times 10 because I can’t read Chinese. And so I went down to the local tax office. I walked in. I handed them my what is my Visa card, not like the credit card — like the thing that allows me to live in the country. It was called ARC — Alien Resident Card. And I handed it to them and I handed them the document that the school had given me and they looked at it and they handed me a bill and I handed them — I think it was like a thousand NT, which is like 30 bucks US. And then, they stamped on it. It’s a thing that said “Paid.” And I walked out. That was it. It took me less than five minutes. And the only reason I even had to go to the office in the first place was because I hadn’t registered as a foreign worker in the country. Otherwise, they would’ve just sent me a bill and I could have just reviewed all the documentation that the Taiwanese government had prepared, signed it, and sent it back with a check or they would’ve sent me a check if that’s what it took. Done story. It’s over. That was it. And I thought that Taiwan like, oh my God, like of course this is the place where they manufacture all the technology. Like the of course they gotta figure it out. But what I learned later was that was not at all the case. What is actually the case is that that’s how the rest of the world typically does this.
[00:04:29] Like stop and think about this for a second. In the United States, you get a W-2 from your employer and you might get a 1099 from, you know, a side hustle, or you might get a 1099 from your bank for dividends or for interest or for whatever. But you’ll notice that those are official government documents — your 1099 and your W-2. Why are they official government documents? Because your employer has to actually report all that to the IRS. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. The IRS already has all the information. And this applies to about 85% of Americans do not have what we considered a complex return. Now, what would get you a complex return? Well, if you had a business. If you have an LLC or a corporation or whatever, chances are good — or you’re an independent contractor, which in which case you should be organized as an LLC — then your taxes would be complicated. But most people, that’s not the case. Most people don’t even really have anything more that they have to tell the IRS. The IRS has all the information, which means the IRS could actually just compute this and just send you a check. It would be that easy where they could in fact do this even with all the different stuff that we have in our tax code, and our tax code is horrendously complex. I’m gonna get to that in a second. But the IRS could do that, but they don’t. And so today I kind of wanna explore like why don’t they, what exactly are we paying for with our taxes, and what might be a better system?
[00:05:52] So just let’s put a pin in that, and let’s just take a trip down the history lane here and talk about where did income tax in the United States come from? The United States, when it was founded under the Constitution, it funded itself at the federal level with import/export taxes. We call these tariffs. So when you read about people like Alexander Hamilton, one of the jobs that he had was running a customs house. A customs house was a place where you had the customs officer who, when the ship would come into the harbor, would go into the ship and then catalog everything and hand them a tariff bill. And of course that’s then, you know, is priced into the good and then passed along to the consumer. So it’s kind of a fancy way to have a value-added tax or a national sales tax, but the person actually handing over the coin is the merchant, not the citizen. And it’s always one of these things that we should note that when we have to actually give something up, we suffer an emotional response to the loss of it, which makes it painful. And so the pain was not borne by the citizen. The pain was in fact borne by the merchant.
[00:06:57] And as the government continued to evolve, they started to tax other things. The Whiskey Rebellion, which was the first major rebellion in the United States after the passage of the Constitution, was over an excise tax on whiskey as a way to try to raise more money for the federal government so they could do things like, I don’t know, expand the army because Britain at that point was a little bit better and the French weren’t exactly doing great at the time. So the idea that we maybe needed a stronger Navy was pretty much on the forefront of everyone’s mind. What’s interesting about the Whiskey Rebellion though in terms of taxes is that it marked the last time the president of the United States, who is the commander-in-chief of US Armed Forces, actually took the field in actually leading the troops. Because at the time, it was George Washington who knew most of the officers, and he took the field to put down the rebellion. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. One of George Washington’s acts as president was to raise an army and crush opponents for not paying their taxes. But I digress.
[00:07:59] Moving forward, the United States actually, you know, they had a combination of things in which they used to raise money. Most of them were tariffs. But of course the world was changing because by the time you get to the Civil War, you have a scenario in which armies have changed. We’ve gone from what used to be, you know, you would have militias in every town, and then the governor of that town or that state would be the head of the militia, and so the federal government could call on them to raise the militia, and the militia were just people in their houses to having a more professional army that was industrially supported. So in 1861, Congress passed the first income tax to actually fund union forces in the field. One of the reasons that they did this was that it was no longer that you could expect the soldiers to be, you know, farmers who had a gun over their door. You were like recruiting people. So one of the things, if you’ve ever seen the movie Gangs of New York, you’ll see immigrants coming in and the immigration officer saying, this document makes you a citizen in the country, so sign it. This document makes you a private in your new country’s army. Here’s your uniform, here’s your gun, get on the train. And then, they’re going to the front. That is a real thing that actually happened. But where did the uniform and the gun come from? Well, it was paid for by this very first income tax, which then was repealed after the Civil War was over. I believe it was in 1872. But of course the world continued to get more complicated, which means that the idea of the government continuing to function and having things like strong navies and strong militaries required more money to come in. So in 1894, they repassed a income tax, which was then struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court that very same year. The United States didn’t have an income tax then until 1913 with the passage of the 16th Amendment. Now, if you really want to, there is an entire well of conspiracy around the passage of the 16th Amendment. I am not gonna talk about that here because yes, this show is Dylan reads things, so you don’t have to, but ladies and gentlemen, I have my limits. So just know that that’s the date in which we passed it, and now income taxes were part of the law of the land, which was a good thing because if you know your dates, in 1914, we started in with World War I.
[00:10:10] Which brings us to our next big event when it comes to income taxes, which is World War II because what was happening is that the — well, it wasn’t called the IRS at the time, but the income taxes were paid by people having to declare how much they made and then paying taxes on that. And you can kind of see how this goes. Like I typically believe that the average person is good and upstanding and honest, but I also understand that people are not gonna be honest about their money because, well, I’m a financial coach and I deal with that all the time. But the federal government had a problem because if, you know, 1943, we’re in World War II at that point, and so people, you know, have had their entire lives turned upside down. Men have left factory jobs to go join the armed forces and the militaries. You know, women are now coming into the workplace. This becomes this huge problem. So rather than trying to ask everyone to just be really honest for the war effort, what Congress did was pass a law requiring the employers, who are a smaller group than the total individuals of the citizenry, to withhold taxes and pay them on that person’s behalf. And it’s notable that the main person who was the spokesman for this was a cartoon called Donald Duck. Donald Duck was the poster boy for paying your patriotic taxes, so that our boys in the field could win the fight. You know, and they had a whole cartoon — taxes for bullets, taxes for planes, taxes for bombs, taxes for ships. But it was Donald Duck saying this, so it’s extra comical and you can go find it on YouTube. Now, once the withholding started, it didn’t stop because it was a very efficient way, and then people didn’t have to like constantly live in fear that this was a thing. And then, in 1962, they started requiring social security numbers because in 1962 is when we started to have this idea of we want to have a unique identifier in which we can, you know, identify all the different people that are in here because it turns out that as our population is growing, there’s a bunch of John Smiths who live in Kenosha, Wisconsin, you know? So if their social security number, which is a unique number, that’s now how we started to actually organize our tax system.
[00:12:17] And then, in 1987, taxes eliminated 7 million children from the United States. Now, that’s a sensational statement, but it’s also true because in 1987 under the Reagan administration — ’cause remember Reagan came in and was famous for cutting taxes. But by the time he got to 1987, he had a problem. One of the problems was he was in a really bad recession, okay? The savings and loan bust had really kicked off in 1986 and in 1987, it was a really bad year. But the other problem that he had had was that he had cut taxes with the idea that if I cut taxes, then people have more money to invest, and then it’ll cause the economy to grow, and so the government will actually bring in more money. This is what’s known as the Laffer Curve, and Laffer is of course Arthur Laffer, the economist who’s never actually been able to prove that this is true. And so Reagan of course has now won a second term, and he’s in office and the problem in 1987 he has is he’s got a big recession going on and his budget looks like hell. He basically showed that there was no way to actually make that work because he had also, you know, created income taxes on social security during that same time. So what they did in 1987 was that if you were gonna claim a deduction on your taxes for your children, you had to list their social security numbers. And so that year when people filed their taxes, there were 7 million less children, according to people’s tax returns in the United States. And, you know, that roughly works out to be about 10% of all children claimed in taxes in 1986.
[00:13:48] So that brings us more or less to the present. And I’m giving you a very brief overview here, but it’s worth understanding that as we’ve continued through this, people have either, you know, found legal ways to get around it, have resisted it. We’ve had to, you know, attach new numbers to it. They were claiming fictitious children, which brings us to present because every time that the government has said they’re gonna simplify our taxes, every tax person that I know starts salivating because they understand that they’re about to become more wealthy. Because in the United States, we have tax prep as a service. This is unique to the United States. Like yes, in other countries there are tax professionals that help corporations with all sorts of stuff. But for the individual person, that’s not typically the case. Typically, paying taxes is a fairly mundane affair. But in the United States, it’s horrendously complicated because everybody wants a carve-out, everyone wants a handout of taxes somehow with a this deduction or that credit and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. What that has created is that a middleman has inserted themselves into the space between the taxpayer and the places where they’re paying taxes to — typically governments, whether they’re federal, state, or local.
[00:15:02] And the problem in the United States economy from where I’m sitting is that these middlemen are parasites that once they’re inserted, they are next to impossible to remove. And I’ve listed a couple of them on the show before. Like health insurance is a great example. They’ve inserted themselves between you and your doctor for care. And so even if your doctor’s like, man, we gotta get you into surgery right now, your insurance company will consult their death their internal death panel and decide, no, no, no. That cancer? You can totally live with that. You know? And it just came out in the news that Cigna, a major insurance carrier in the United States, is under fire because they were just auto-denying everybody and daring them to challenge it because they knew most people wouldn’t. So this is an example of a middleman who’s inserted themselves and then has created a legalistic structure around them that makes them next to impossible to remove. In the case of tax prep, it’s an $11.9 billion industry in the United States, and that includes all the different places that you think of. But the problem here is is that it is actually illegal in the United States for any state or local government to make a better system. That is to say, you either have to do it yourself or you have to hire it out.
[00:16:13] And this goes back to my experience in Taiwan because that was amazing. Like I went in and it was like they just had a bill. They knew it all. Well, we already know it all here in the United States. The current state is the IRS already has the information, so why not just make this easier so that we can focus on things that are important? Like, you know, catching the game, spending time with our kids, growing our businesses, rather than us having to have this constant stress? Well, it turns out, there are people in the United States who have tried that. For example, in 2005, there was a group in California who were trying to work on a system called Ready Return, which was exactly what I’m proposing here. These people then out of their own pockets went forward and, you know, bought a lobbyist and had them take it to the legislature only to be shot down by people with bigger pockets. And this is where this kind of unholy alliance started to form with this middleman economy. Because obviously, in the tax prep companies, there is an incentive for them to prevent the government from just sending you a bill. And of course you would be able to, you know, look through the bill and dispute it or add more or whatever. And when I say add more, add more deductions. Don’t ever add pay more taxes than you need to.
[00:17:28] But the other side of that is a group called Americans for Tax Reform, and it’s headed by a man by the name of Grover Norquist. Now, Grover Norquist is the one who was famous for his Taxpayer Pledge, which most Republicans about 95% in Congress sign onto that say it says that they will not raise taxes at anyone for any reason, and they’re not gonna support the elimination of any type of credit or deduction without the tax rate also being cut in equal measure. Okay, so now we can debate whether that’s a good idea or not, but that’s his stance. He hates the idea of ready return and he has gone on record repeatedly that part of his job is to make filing your taxes as painful and as laborious as humanly possible in order to garner political support for his opinions. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. He is weaponizing the government to support his political ideas. Now, he’s certainly not the only one who does this. This is just the one we’re talking about right now. There are other people who are awful human beings who run around weaponizing government and government agencies, but we’re on this one right now. So the point to get to is that every time that you have to sit down to do your taxes, you should understand that they’re complicated and they’re scary so that somebody else that’s not the government, a private corporation, can pick your pocket by offering tax prep return so that you can continue to use a system that was purposely broken to and with intent designed to piss you off, take your time, and make you feel anxious. Now, ladies and gentlemen, if that doesn’t piss you off, I don’t know what will.
[00:19:05] But that brings us to another question. All that said, what are we paying taxes for? Like how do we even collect taxes? Because I said at the top of the show that Americans are some of the most taxed people in the world, which we are. We pay more in taxes than literally anybody any other country on the face of the planet. When you include the entirety of our taxes, not just our income tax. Our income tax rates are actually among the lowest in the world as far as developed economies are concerned. But our total tax burden? Well, that’s something else entirely. So let’s just give you a quick rundown of what types of taxes you pay. And ladies and gentlemen, I want you to keep in mind that as we go through this list, maybe just think about the ones you were aware that you were paying on a day-to-day basis.
[00:19:46] So that is, of course, starting right off is the big one with your individual income taxes. The United States government typically collects about $1.6 trillion in individual income taxes. Second to that is your payroll taxes, which is the FICA tax that comes off your Social Security and Medicare. That’s another $1.2 trillion. Then there’s corporate taxes, which total about $200 billion, so not that bad. Then there’s excise taxes that go on things like gasoline, alcohol, tobacco, etc. Hey, remember George Washington and, you know, raising an army and crutching a rebellion of people who didn’t wanna pay their taxes? Yeah, it was this kind of tax. That brings in about $85 billion a year. And so when you’re at the pump and you’re actually getting gas, you’re paying the excise tax. It’s just built into the price so you don’t see it. Then there’s estate and gift taxes that total about $14 billion. And it’s worth noting that estate and gift taxes — some people call it the death tax — only apply after you get past a ridiculous amount of money. So the average person typically would — even if they gave away every cent that they earned in their life, they never actually have to pay this. And it’s not paid by the person inheriting money. It’s paid by the estate on the final tax return. Then of course there’s custom and duties. That brings in about $73 billion, and that is your tariffs that were famously raised by President Trump. Other taxes that you’re gonna have at the local level are gonna be things like sales tax, which are set typically by municipalities, local income taxes if you have them, state income taxes if you have them, and then of course there’s property taxes, which are assessed on typically your resident, but it’s assessed on pretty much anything that’s within the municipality in general. All in, when you add up all those together, there isn’t an actual number that anyone knows because it’s next to impossible to calculate. I spent an inordinate amount of time over the last few years trying to actually calculate that number and no one has actually come that close that I could tell. Or at least the ones who do have a number didn’t show their work, and I’m not gonna accept that on my show.
[00:21:47] Now, with all that money you might be asking, what are we getting for it? Well, with the payroll taxes, it’s pretty obvious, right? Like the Social Security system is set up as a pay as you go. So you pay a dollar in, that dollar then flows through the Social Security Administration, 3 cents is kept for overhead and 97 cents goes to people like my grandma and my parents. You know, Medicare, which of course is their health insurance plan, is also part of that. But those are paid for by the payroll taxes. You’ll notice that Medicaid wasn’t. We’ll come back to that in a second. Which brings us to the bigger parts of this, which is the individual income taxes. Now, this is a point in which I’ve often said that one of the things that gets under my skin is when we overly simplify things, and I’m gonna do my best to not do that here. But I wanna point out that in 2021, the United States government took in $1.6 trillion in taxes and in terms of discretionary spending — so that’s not the Social Security or Medicare, but the discretionary spending. That’s the budget thing that everybody’s always arguing about — we only spent about $1.3 trillion, which meant $0.3 trillion didn’t get spent. And you might think to yourself, but Dylan, hold on a second. That’s insanity. Because we have this huge deficit, which has led to $30 trillion in debt. So how the hell did that happen if what you’re telling me is is they collected plenty of taxes to cover it? Well, that’s because, ladies and gentlemen, this is horrendously complicated. And part of it is you’ll notice that Medicaid wasn’t included in this because Medicaid isn’t necessarily funded. The government’s required to spend it, but they don’t actually fund it very well. And this is true for a lot of other things up to and including things out of the Department of Defense because if they need it, we’re gonna pay for it and hope we can figure it out later.
[00:23:32] That said though, let’s actually look at what the budget is. It’s notable that how the line items in the federal budget are actually allocated. So these are your tax dollars, ladies and gentlemen. They actually line up to cabinet-level positions. So the United States President will appoint people to, say, the Department of Energy or the Department of Defense or the Department of Health and Human Services. Those are cabinet-level positions. The money that Congress allocates is allocated to that department to then spend on their own internal things. Only three departments make up two-thirds of the total budget. Those are defense, health and human services, and transportation. Defense is obvious. That’s the military. So out of the total federal budget, 54% goes to the Department of Defense. Or if you wanted to put it another way, 54 cents of every dollar in taxes you pay goes to the Department of Defense, an organization that spends more money on whatever it is that they’re doing over there than the next 10 nations combined and have yet to pass an audit being able to justify where their $1.8 trillion in assets are. I’m an auditor. I didn’t actually go out on the US Navy audit, but I was selected for it and then was waived off at the last second. But they got a disclaimer opinion, which means their books are so bad we can’t even tell if this is real at all. That’s what that means. But that’s where 54 cents of every dollar you pay in taxes on your income taxes goes. Second up, the Department of Defense is $702 billion and the next up is Health and Human Services at $96 billion. So totally not in the same category. Health and Human Services manages Medicaid, Medicare, and the ACA also known as the Affordable Care Act also known as Obamacare. Now, one of the things I said was that Medicaid isn’t necessarily funded but the administration of it is, and that’s really what’s being paid for here — is that there are certain contracts and things that Medicaid, Medicare, and the ACA all have to manage. You have an entire fleet of people who are processing and dealing with all the different internal administrative tasks for those organizations, and so that is what’s going on here. They also run several welfare programs, like the TANF, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; Head Start, which is early pre-K education for families in poverty; and the Children’s Health Insurance program or CHIP. It’s worth noting, ladies and gentlemen, that if you have anyone who’s receiving state-level benefits in terms of health, particularly if you have somebody who has a child with disabilities and that child is getting assistance from the state, that’s actually Medicaid that’s coming through the Department of Health and Human Services. Just so you know where your money is going. And then of course the next and last one in our top two-thirds of the total budget is the Department of Transportation who manages our highways and all that good jazz.
[00:26:21] Okay. So that’s kind of a quick rundown. And I’m throwing a lot of information at you, but I do wanna point out one thing: one of the reasons that we have things like the debt ceiling debacle and we have all this debt is because our tax system is so horribly convoluted that we don’t actually know how much money in subsidies we give. And there’s two ways that we do subsidies in the United States. The first way is we cut a check. It’s called a direct transfer. And so things that like the TANF, Head Start, CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, rental subsidies — those are direct transfers. That’s what we think of as welfare. The government is actually cutting a check. But that’s not the only way we subsidize, and of the two ways we subsidize, that’s peanuts compared to the other way we subsidize things. And that is with tax deductions and tax credit. Tax deductions reduce the amount of income subject to taxation, which can be huge dollars if you’re a high-net-worth individual. Now, part of the reason you might give a tax deduction is we’d like them to put their money somewhere else, and you might think particularly in the United States where we have these very generous charitable tax deductions, that we would have more charitable giving, but we don’t. Our charitable giving is about on par with all the rest of the developed countries. And the same thing is true for things like tax credit. The mortgage interest tax credit, which allows you to reduce your taxes based upon how much interest you’re paying your mortgage if you are over a certain amount, that’s also a subsidy for residential housing and it only applies for people who have houses that are absolutely massive. So like for myself living in Colorado, I have a very nice respectable middle class home. But it’s worth noting that like I don’t qualify for that subsidy. But the guy who lives in the $4 million mansion down the road, he does. And so the government is directly subsidizing his home through these tax credits. The other ways, and these are ones that I certainly claim, things like childcare tax credits; when my wife was in graduate school, continuing education tax credits; child tax, you know, child deductions — the list goes. And so that’s part of what’s going on. But this isn’t even where like it gets really crazy when you have, you know, tax credits and deductions for EVs, and you have it for oil and gas. Like the tax credits and deductions for oil and gas are more or less the profit of those companies. And then, this is also not even getting into any of the ways that we indirectly subsidize companies like large box stores where you have an employee who’s working 40 hours a week but they make so little money they qualify for food stamps. What we’re doing is we’re effectively subsidizing their payroll because that is the effect that’s happening. If you go and look at a box store’s 10-K, that is their financial reporting to Wall Street, you’ll notice that the reduction of things like food stamps is considered a threat to their business, both because their employees would then be impoverished and some of their employees are the most steady customers to those same box stores.
[00:29:26] And so when we get into this, that’s the biggest reason why our tax code is so convoluted, is because of all of these different deductions and tax credits that are in there and all the different ways you classify income because a dollar earned by Warren Buffet is taxed at a lower rate than the dollar earned by his secretary. And that’s true for me, too. I personally have paid more a higher percentage in taxes than Warren Buffet has in every year of my adult life. That’s just a fact. And some people will say, well, we should aspire to be like them. Ladies and gentlemen, unless you are part of the 3 Comma Club, you’re not in the category where you’re gonna be able to take advantage of how they do it.
[00:30:09] So is there a better way? And here’s what I would propose. A big part of my ethos on Fiscally Savage is that your budget is a statement of your values. I truly believe that people hate paying their taxes because the budget line items that they are aware of are not in line with their values. That is to say, I don’t think we would actually care as much about paying taxes if we could directly see what we were getting out of it. Or maybe we would care even more. And in my mind, that’s an even better option because now you’ve got people who are actually looking at where their money’s going and they may be outraged or they may be happy or they may be indifferent, but at least now they know. If you wanna get rid of corruption, daylight and transparency is one of the most effective tools to do it. And so here’s what I would say: if you want to actually subsidize something like oil and gas, I have no issue with it. But don’t do it through an opaque, non-transparent way through credits and deductions because that number is next to impossible then to calculate across the economy. Instead, make your tax system so there’s no deductions, and if you wanna actually support something, make it a line item on your income statement. That is to say, turn everything to direct subsidies so we know exactly how much money we’re giving to large oil companies and to wind farm manufacturers and to children in this country and to medical professionals and to EVs and to literally everything on this list. If we are willing to subsidize it in a sneaky, non-transparent way because we truly believe that that is a good use of government funds, then we should be willing to do it in the daylight. But if it was done in the daylight, I sincerely don’t think that big handouts like tax breaks for thoroughbred horse breeders in Kentucky would’ve been included in massive support bills like the COVID Relief Act passed in the waning days of the Trump administration, which then of course Biden doubled down on in his first days of his administration. If we had to actually look at it as a nation and look at it in the mirror as to where we’re actually spending our money, I believe the conversation will be different and I would believe the conversation will be for the better. And I think that when you pay for something, you should get a receipt. And in that receipt, it should give you a breakdown. Here is the total amount that you paid in taxes, and here is where each proportion of your taxes paid went to. And that should include every one of these cabinet-level departments: defense, health and human services, NASA, energy, education. The list goes on. If we had that level of transparency and there’s no reason we can’t do this, how would things be different? How could we make better intentional choices, both in how we are looking at ourselves as a nation and how we’re choosing our politicians? Imagine if you had a world where you could actually look up your politician and call them up and say, I really would like to know why I just spent $350 in the US Department of Education. Explain it to me. Help me understand. Or you might look at it and be like I just spent the vast majority of my taxes went to the miliitary and they’re just building new aircraft carriers and they have a fire plane that they’ve been trying to develop for 20 years that doesn’t work. I wanna know more. They’re producing tanks in one state that are then shipped to another state for commissioning that are shipped to a third state for decommissioning and then they’re sold for scrap in the auction markets just in order to keep the pinwheel of government contracting going. I would like to know more about that. So ladies and gentlemen, my invitation to you today is to just sit back and consider some of this stuff. Because at the end of the day, we live in a democracy. The government we have is what we voted in and mostly because we have just terrible options. A two-party system in which one party sucks and the other one blows is not a really great thing. But taxes are always a flashpoint. And I don’t like to ever talk about something this controversial without having some sort of solution.
[00:34:15] So that’s my show for today, ladies and gentlemen. And I would actually love to know what you think. I’m inviting you to visit me over on Instagram @fiscallysavage, and I would like to start the conversation about what you thought about the show. What did you think about taxes? Did I change anybody’s mind or are you just inordinately angry at me for the whole show? Or maybe better yet, maybe I made you feel slightly hopeful. That would be a good outcome in my mind. In either case, ladies and gentlemen, I love each and every single one of you. Thank you so much for listening. I will see you on Tuesday to talk about taxes in a more educational sense. Have a good weekend and you’ll hear from me on Tuesday.
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