Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Will your tax money go to waste?

April 15 always puts me in a seriously crabby mood. It's not that I don't love my country. Because I do. But sending in my IRS form always reminds me of two things - rubs my nose in them, actually.

The first is that the tax code is monstrous and incomprehensible. More than two-thirds of us have to hire a professional to file our returns. If we are smart enough to bankroll this country, it seems to me that we should be able to do the paperwork without help.

And the second is that I start really thinking about where my money goes. I fantasize that my payroll deductions will fund all the good stuff - medical care for poor kids. Or the education of somebody who will install - brilliantly and painlessly - my new hip someday. This year, I'd like to imagine my money helped buy the plane that flew the seven rescued soldiers home.

Pork R Us

On the other hand, perhaps it was used to put a coat of paint on the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, which was just awarded $90,000 in federal funding. Worse, maybe I bought grass seed for the First Tee Program, given $500,000 for its mission to "impact the lives of young people around the world by creating affordable and accessible golf facilities to primarily serve those who have not previously had exposure to the game and its positive values."

Meanwhile, we are still debating help for elderly people who surely would enjoy exposure to "affordable and accessible" prescription drugs.

"Unlike it did during World War II and the Korean War, Congress has failed to cut non-defense discretionary spending during the War on Terrorism," charged Citizens Against Government Waste, which publishes an annual Congressional Pig Book.

"I believe that this book should be read by every citizen in America," says Sen. John McCain. On the other hand, Sen. Robert Byrd told NPR: "Those peckerwoods don't know what they're doing."

The reality is that a Tomahawk cruise missile costs $l million. I'd sure hate to tell a Marine that we fell short because we decided to give the money to Montana's bear DNA project. And we could pay for two missiles with the money Congress agreed to spend to fly Russian VIPs here to see the Festival Flea Market and Swing Dance in Florida.

Since 9-11, Cincinnati's mayor has repeatedly asked for more federal money for firefighters, police and emergency workers. Wouldn't you like to think some of your tax money helped buy a thermal imaging camera that saved somebody in a burning building? I would rather buy one of those than a tent at the National Peanut Festival Fairgrounds in Dothan, Ala., ($202,500) or some crown molding at the Biltmore Hotel ($900,000).

Today is the day we participate - in a very personal way - in the cost of running this country, a country at war.

Foreign aid? How about a scholarship for the 6-year-old daughter of Mohammed, the Iraqi lawyer who led Special Forces to POW Jessica Lynch? And I will imagine my contribution paid for the telephone call to Pfc. Lynch's parents.

E-mail lpulfer@enquirer.com or phone 768-8393.

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