If My Clients Could Speak

Now that tax season is over my life can return to some semblance of normalcy. For the last three and half months I have been totally immersed in the fiction created by congress and ran by the IRS called the tax return. Don’t misunderstand, I enjoy my work and I love being able to help people with something that even us professionals sometimes struggle with. I also enjoy meeting and listening to hundreds of people I might not ordinarily meet or converse with. Given the nature of the tax code the subject of politics is nearly always introduced. I never broach the subject as I tend to be too honest with people. I have learned over the years that far to many people are way too comfortable with their illusions and simply cannot tolerate any measure of truth, no matter how small or well intentioned.

There are however exceptions and those conversations are always interesting. The tax office I manage is in typical small town America. The overarching concern expressed by nearly everyone I talked with was concern over an out of control federal government, and no, I didn’t talk to any “extremists”. By and large the people here go to work every day, whether they want to or not. They register their cars, buy auto insurance, pay their taxes, vote in most elections for the person rather than the party and try to teach their children the difference between right and wrong. In other words they play by the rules, do the right thing as a rule and try to mind their own business. Almost unanimously they feel like they spend far to much time trying to overcome the oppression of an out of control government as well as a popular culture and public education system seemingly bent on self destruction. In other words, good and decent people trying to come to grasp with a government that would spy on them, lie to them, target them and threaten them as well as a popular culture that tells them wrong is right and right is wrong.

Consider what one client told me. The alphabet soup of government agencies has over the last twenty years issued nearly 50,000 new regulations. If that is correct, and I have no reason to think otherwise, that means that it is literally impossible for an ordinary citizen not to be in violation of a rule/regulation/law somehow, somewhere. In this light their concern makes perfect sense. I would remind the do gooder political class that the patience of these good people is not limitless.

With the congressional mid-term elections coming this year I paid more than usual attention to the questions that were asked of me. I think those questions are a good gauge though of what a lot of people are thinking/worried about. Also, I found it fascinating that a lot of the questions were not actually related to taxes or the tax code. Far and away the most common question asked this year was concerning Obamacare. The unscientific yet overwhelming consensus was that Obamacare was a complete disaster. Not one of the three hundred plus clients I dealt with had a positive thing to say about little Barry’s signature achievement. When I explained to many of them that they would be facing an additional penalty next year because they hadn’t met the insurance policy deadline they were universally upset. Hey Nancy, the bill passed so why don’t they know what’s in it?

A young construction worker asked, “How can the government penalize me for not buying something I don’t want?” A retired couple who actually knew a little about the law wanted to know why they had to buy a policy that covered maternity benefits when they were both in their late 50’s and had no plans to have children. Sadly, there was no logical answer I could provide them.

Then there was the most creative couple I have seen. They have two children, no insurance and an income that gives them a substantial amount of Earned Income Credit. They have no intention of getting insurance and are planning on having another child and monitoring their income for the sole purpose of maximizing their Earned Income Credit next year to offset whatever penalty they may have to pay. An essentially unwanted child used to pay for a federal penalty and in the process, make a little extra money as the EIC credit and the additional child tax credit will more than offset their projected penalty. A true Obamacare success story. (For those familiar with Obamacare this couple will most likely fall inside the federal poverty guidelines and have no penalty. I explained this to them but they are going ahead with their plan “just in case” and if it turns out I am correct then they see the additional EIC and Child tax credit as a “bonus.”)

Running a close second to Obamacare in my many conversations was the subject of illegal immigration. My mother came to America as a child and my dad was himself a first generation American. As a first generation American this is a subject near and dear to my heart. I discovered a near universal distaste for anything resembling amnesty. Here in the west where most of us still work for a living instead of planning our lives around a government handout (Earned Income Credit and Child Tax Credit), the idea that people who break the law to get here and stay here should get special preference in anything, is beyond frustrating.

A young college student asked, “Why do illegal aliens get in state tuition at state funded colleges? Isn’t this a case of the state government rewarding bad behavior? Don’t “driving privilege” cards accomplish the same thing?” Yes Virginia, it is and they do and how racist of you to think that way.

Another client offered the following, “Spare me the “It’s not my fault my parents brought me here” argument.” I agreed. “If you are old enough to know you are not legal and old enough to be going to college, then you are old enough to begin the legalization process. At that point your being illegal is your fault, period.” Personal responsibility, what a quaint concept.

The people I talked with are confused and upset. They simply do not understand why while they were so busy working to support their families, playing by the rules and sacrificing a little today so that tomorrow might be a little better their government not just abandoned them but has actually turned against them.

They don’t understand why their leaders insist on forcing so-called gay marriage down their throats. Comparing the idea of gay marriage to traditional marriage one client put it bluntly, “You can call a fruitcake an angel food cake all day long but at the end of the day it’s still a fruitcake.” You gotta love oil field workers.

They don’t understand why their Christian faith is unacceptable at any level of government but the Islamic faith must be not only tolerated but endorsed. This from a practicing Catholic who drives 300 miles round trip every other weekend to volunteer on one of the local Indian reservations “The seventh century is alive and well at a Mosque near you.” I think he’s being a bit over generous on the date but he also has a masters degree so I will defer to him.

The general impression I got from all the people I talked with was that while they were busy working, saving and being responsible, a class of professional troublemakers took over their country. Given the depth of resentment and frustration they expressed I expect it will be a very interesting election this year. I can only hope the democrat-lite candidates on the so-called republican side are shown the door and some actual conservatives get elected. Real men like Mike Lee and Ted Cruz are doing heroic work to stem the tide of one progressive led disaster after another but they need reinforcements. As my grandfather used to say at crunch time, “It’s time to praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.”

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