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Sunday, April 13, 2003

For once, being poor helped and being disorganized didn't hurt.

I could have figured my income taxes any time since January, but as usual I waited until the last minute. Deadlines are my lifelines. If it weren't for the pressure that panic creates, I might never get anything done. I suppose that's why I have papers to file in teetering piles, dust on every surface and cobwebs in every corner. There's no deadline for those things.

But there is a deadline for income tax, and it's in two days. Tomorrow will probably be the last day to get close enough to the post office to mail my returns without having to elbow all the other slackers out of the way.

You might think I wait this long to do it because it's a tedious job that takes hours of intricate calculations. That's exactly the reason I waited this long, although it's a totally erroneous assumption. It took me about an hour to do both the federal and state taxes. The short forms I use have big boxes to fill, easy instructions, and none of the supplemental forms that make rich people, or people who live more complicated lives than mine, have to hire professionals to figure out how much they owe the government.

It's good to be poor, when it comes time to pay taxes. It's better to be rich, of course, because paying hurts less and you can afford to hire an accountant who will find all the deductions, loopholes and other mysteries that lower your taxes. Plus, and I'm just guessing here, it's probably better to be rich the other 364 days of the year. But on tax day, poor equals fast and easy.

While there will be no tax refunds in my immediate future, I paid less than last year. It's a true comparison, because I made exactly the same amount in gross income both years. Exactly, to the penny (although you're supposed to round everything off to whole dollars). It's not much less that I had to pay, but it's good for me. I don't always approve of the way the government spends my money anyway.

It makes me wonder, though. I don't believe expenses are going down, what with all the war, terror, chaos and destruction that has to be dealt with. If the government takes in less money, doesn't that mean that there's not as much for children and older people? Is anybody in Washington or Sacramento worried about them? Or are they getting caught in the crossfire?


Clouds above the trees.

Okay, so I'm not poor by most people's definition. I do all right, but it's relative, isn't it? If the top one percent or five percent have most of the money, then all the rest of us are poor by comparison. Nevertheless, it's hard to look at the images from Iraq (or Rwanda or Afghanistan) and call myself poor.

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There's something wrong in a world where luck has so much to do with whether you have enough to eat or not. I'd be happier about paying taxes if the money were being used to solve problems like that. In my world, people who have more than they need help out the ones who don't have enough.

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