Live Free or Cheap

One of the little corner-of-the-screen tags on CNN yesterday informed me that “The average American spends more on taxes than on food, shelter, and clothing combined!” And I’m outraged by this.
No, I’m not outraged that our taxes are so high, especially because they’re not; taxes in the US are lower than pretty much anywhere resemblign civilization, and if you want to know how great it is to live in a tax-free society, ask a Somalian.
I’m outraged at CNN for repeating someone else’s lie. This particular lie comes from The Tax Foundation, an organization whose raison d’etre is to announce that everything you earned between January 1, 2009 and April 13, 2009 was stolen by the government, and only now are you earning money for yourself instead of being a slave.
I suggest that we immediatelyt let anyone who wants it be declared exempt from all taxes. And then, at the end of the year, send them a bill for their usage of the roads, all public services, their share of national defense, police service, the fire department, and a hefty bill for the education of their children. After all, they’ll all be so much richer from having that extra 28% of their income that they surely won’t mind paying a fair market rate for all the tax-supported services they normally enjoy. Of course, that fair market rate would have to be two or three times as much as they’d pay in taxes, since they wouldn’t be able to leverage the same sort of government protections that tax-supported services do, but, hey, it’s their money.
(I’m declaring 2 PM “Boss Freedom Hour”, when I celebrate the fact that up until that point in the afternoon, the money made by my labor goes to my employer, not to me. But I actually totally made up the calculation since I have no idea how much my employer actually makes from my labor)
Anyway, about that outrage. I make a good living. I make a very good living. I’m not rich, even by the standards of pundits who claim that anything under $250k is “poor”. And my housing costs are ridiculously low. I bought my house shortly before the whole housing insanity that drove us into this recession. So I’m making a very good living, better than most. And I’m paying less than most for housing. (As a data point, Leah, until she moved in with me, rented. My monthly mortgage payment is less than half her monthly rent). A quick, back-of-the-envelope calculation tells me that I spend 15% of my income on housing. If, as the Tax Foundation claims, the average American pays April 13 — sorry, 28% of his income in taxes, and that’s more than he spends on food, clothing, and shelter, then that means I must spend less than 13% of my income on food and clothing…
Now, I was taught in school that you spend 1/3 of your income on food no matter what. I thought this was impossible then, and I think it’s impossible now (It turns out that the 1/3 number came about because back in the 50s, the US government hired a Czechoslovakian immigrant to work out the poverty level, and she did, based on the fact that in Czechoslovakia, housing was incredibly cheap, and food was incredibly expensive), but if it were, that would mean that 33% + 15% + x% < 28% where x% is the amount the average American spends on clothing. So, the average American spends -20% of their income on clothing. I go down to the store, and I buy a new shirt, and the store pays me fifty dollars. But let's just assume for the moment that the Tax Foundation is right, and that the average American loses 28% of their income to Uncle Sam, and they lose a further something-less-than 28% on food, clothing, and shelter. That still leaves 44% of the average American's income unaccounted for. So, 44% of the average American's income, according to the Tax Foundation, is disposable, not used for anything necessary (Yeah, yeah, health care, but real men don't need health care. God gave you two kidneys for a reason). Almost half the money you make, you can use for anything you like. Which makes July 25 "Necessity Freedom Day", the day after which any money you earn is not used for food, clothing, or shelter, and you can just blow it on, I dunno, booze and hookers if that's where your heart lies. Call the office, I'm taking off the rest of the year.

One thought on “Live Free or Cheap

  1. Jake

    My understanding of the 33% on food thing is this:
    In any given region there is going to be some minimum amount to spend on food below which you cannot reasonably feed yourself. The poverty line is defined as three times that amount, the idea being that it’s a good proxy for the cost of living of that region.

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