In what's developing into a tradition, my thoughts have again wandered this spring to matters that aren't strictly related to logistics but nonetheless touch all our lives (at least if we're U.S. citizens). Let's start with taxes. Boy, what a mess.
Like many of you, I spent the first decades of my career working for someone else. My taxes were deducted from each paycheck and handed over to Uncle Sam before I could ever miss the money. Before long, I had stopped noticing how deep my "uncle" was reaching into my pocket.
But now that I work for myself, it's impossible not to notice. As a partner in an LLC (limited liability corporation), I'm required to estimate my taxes and send a payment to the IRS every three months. That means instead of enduring a little blood-letting with each paycheck, I basically just open a vein each quarter.
Now that I have to write the IRS a check for several thousand dollars every three months, I can't avoid noticing the size of the tax burden. And, candidly, it is outrageous. But (and excuse the modern-day cliché) where's the outrage? Why are we so willing to hand over 30, 40, even 50 percent of our hard-earned dollars without complaint?
I suspect most of us are unaware of what's happening. And I have a modest proposal for bringing this outrage to the public's attention: Stop automatic withholding. Just eliminate it altogether. Instead, make every American pay his or her fine (er, income taxes) on a quarterly basis. I'd bet nothing would get the public's attention faster than having to write quarterly checks to the government for amounts that are double, triple or quadruple the size of their monthly mortgage payment. Put a system like that in place, and the outrage is sure to boil over sooner rather than later.
And another thing ...
As I sit here fuming over my quarterly tax payments, I'm reminded of another cause for outrage. And in this case, it's our own fault.
As both consumers and folks who rely on freight transportation, we're all aware of skyrocketing fuel prices. The increases have been (sorry) outrageous. But you have to ask, why are we even in this predicament?
Well, we know why. The talking heads on the Sunday morning news programs tell us that the shortages are due to problems in Iran, in Venezuela, and even here in the United States (largely because of hurricane-related damage to drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico).
But this isn't the first time we've found ourselves in this dilemma. Gas shortages date back to the early 1970s. Some of us certainly remember waiting in gas lines for hours. So why haven't we found ways to insulate ourselves from supply fluctuations by now?
It's not that it can't be done. In fact, the folks in Brazil have done it. While Americans simply reverted to their old ways once the spot shortages of the '70s had eased, Brazil got on the stick and put in place a long-term solution. It took 30 years to get there, but as of the beginning of this year, Brazil has declared itself energy independent. Using alternative fuels, most notably ethanol, the nation is able to meet all of its energy needs without having to import oil from anyone.
Think how different our lives would be if we could make foreign policy decisions without weighing the implication to our all-important fossil fuel feeds. Our representatives in Washington should take a closer look at what's been done in Brazil.
Perhaps they need to hear more from us about this issue (and the quarterly tax idea).What do you say, folks, time to spark a little outrage? I think we're long overdue.