- The Washington Times - Monday, April 15, 2002

Americans have grown wary of the numerous soothing myths rolled out each year at tax time by the purveyors of big government. Among their arsenal is the fictitious notion that you and I somehow owe the government its money.
Right, like we've been holding onto the government's money all year while the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) patiently waits to settle up on April 15. Baloney. Let's set the record straight.
First, the cash sent to the government whether taken out of our wages, sent by check to the IRS, or both is not the government's money. It's our earnings.
I've always believed, as Ronald Reagan did, that government is "the people's business, and every man, woman and child becomes a shareholder with the first penny of tax paid." Throughout the year, we shareholders dutifully fork over a generous portion of our hard-earned income in the form of taxes, which the government confiscates from our wages.
April 15 is the day upon which we reconcile the amounts relinquished to America's behemoth bureaucracy with the amounts it has purloined from our paychecks. The IRS prefers to call this "withholdings." It sounds less offensive.
Second, credits and deductions are not, as the tax increasers say, sinister "tax cuts" or "loopholes" used by taxpayers to avoid paying the government. Credits and deductions are the legitimate means however small used to fairly reflect extra financial burdens taxpayers endure complying with the high cost of government.
Finally, the pejorative term "tax cut" is a misnomer. A so-called tax cut is really tax relief however small from the excessive burden that taxpayers collectively bear in shouldering the growing appetite of our greedy federal bureaucracy. The fact is, our government taxes us more than it needs to.
The real question is what are we getting for our money? The answer is invariably the same: more government and less freedom.
When President Bush assembled his Cabinet last year, he discovered a dismal 10 out of the 14 agencies had failed to achieve a clean audit in at least two of the last four years. In fact, the Department of Education's books were in such disarray, they couldn't even be audited. Nonplussed, the Congress increased spending by nearly 25 percent over the same period.
This crazy system has been kept alive by the empty promises of those who see bigger government as the answer to virtually every problem confronting society. Under Mr. Bush's leadership, we have finally begun to hold these agencies accountable and to curb the government's voracious appetite. We're getting rid of waste, fraud and abuse, and, we're feeding the beast less.
We've been chipping away at the size of government and the tax burden on Americans. For example, we've eliminated some of the most egregious items in the tax code, such as the death tax. Also, I co-sponsored a bill to repeal Bill Clinton's income tax increase on Social Security benefits.
Meanwhile, it's no secret that the current tax system needs an overhaul. With nearly 650 IRS forms, schedules and instructions, no wonder Americans spend an incredible 5.8 billion hours and $200 billion each year just to comply with the demands of April 15. All of this requires more than 104,000 IRS employees (four times as many people as work for the FBI) just to police the system.
There are 700 separate sections of the Tax Code that apply just to individuals. Add to that another 1,500 separate provisions applying to businesses. In total, the IRS regulations contain more than 8,550,000 words over 11 times the number of words in the King James Bible.
Worse yet, a taxpayer's bondage doesn't end April 15. For the remainder of 2002, an average American will continue to pay more federal taxes every time he goes shopping, flies on a airplane, makes a phone call, flips on a light switch, and fills his gas tank.
Upon passing the president's landmark tax-relief bill in the U.S. House, our supporters in the Senate had to work hard to defeat a filibuster threatened by Democrats. Had Senate liberals succeeded, the lifespan of the tax package would have been brief. In the end, the pleadings of overtaxed Americans succeeded in persuading enough senators to pass what became known as the Economic Growth & Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001.
Echoing my sentiments and those of many of my House colleagues, Mr. Bush said in his most recent State of the Union address, "For the sake of long-term growth and to help American plan for the future, let's make [this tax relief] permanent." It is imperative we do this.
There will always be those who think it's not the taxpayers' money but Washington's. I stopped buying that baloney years ago. For me, April 15 serves as an annual reminder that government is still too big, wastes too much of our money and taxes us too heavily.

Rep. Bob Schaffer is a Colorado Republican.


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