Friday, April 24, 2009

Tax Freedom Day

From the 27 April 2009 Greater Niagara Newspapers

By Bob Confer

Last Saturday, April 25, was a big day for the workingperson. A holiday of sorts, it was Tax Freedom Day in New York. That was the day in 2009 that you could finally go about working for your own interests like feeding your family, saving for your retirement, or helping to put your kid get through college. Prior to that, every day that you worked this year was dedicated only to the government.

Tax Freedom Day is the brainchild of the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan educational organization that focuses on tax policy and the burdens they impose on Americans. It is an annual study that determines when personal financial freedom is achieved. The Foundation analyzes the entire federal and state tax load fronted by a state’s residents, looking at all of them, big and small, from income to property to sales to excise taxes. That bundle is then applied to the average wage for that state and from there the number of workdays required to meet that burden is calculated.

The study is a good gauge for the competitiveness and quality of life for each state. New Yorkers, long known as some of the highest-taxed in the US, have the third-latest Tax Freedom Day in the US. The only two that fall later are New Jersey (April 29) and Connecticut (April 30). The average American spends less time working for the government than we do and, not surprisingly, some states have nearly a month on us. Alaska is the best-performer, seeing freedom on March 23. Three other states (Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Dakota) have the chains removed prior to April. This perfectly exemplifies what we’ve been saying for years, that New York’s status as “the Empire State” is long gone.

To some (specifically government officials) the Tax Foundation’s study may be a gimmick. It’s not. It’s a rather unique way of demonstrating just how much effort goes into making one’s annual payments to the government. With payroll deductions, escrow, and the brainwashing gimmick know as tax returns, very few people really know how much they pay into the system. There’s a lot of numbers for them to contend with and track. This helpful study makes it easy for the layman to understand his contribution.

Think about its findings. For the past four months, every hour that you’ve spent at work, sweating or stressing while dealing with customers, coworkers, or machines - not to mention the economy – has not been for to the money that you need to pay the bills or set aside as discretionary income. Every one of those hours, 640 of them if you work a 40 hour week, 800 of them if you work 50 hours, has been dedicated to the bureaucracies that manage your town, your school, your state, and your nation, and who, more often than not, recklessly spend your hard-earned dollars on social and corporate welfare, bloated public-sector payrolls, low-return infrastructure, and wasteful pork. Nearly four months of your life were toiled away, just to make sure you paid the price of being a “good citizen” in 2009, four months spent working not for you and your family but for everybody else, whether they deserved it or not.

Four months is bad enough, but if it weren’t for the recession Tax Freedom Day would be even later in the year for us. Back in 2007, when the economy was still relatively strong, it fell on May 16. With incomes shrinking, homes foreclosing, and purchases decreasing, the tax burden on a per capita basis has become significantly less, because we have failed to pull the trigger on things that create tax obligations. But, there’s a very good chance that 2010’s study will show a return to mid-May for New Yorkers, even with a deepening recession, because the state legislature has introduced countless new taxes and user fees – while strengthening existing ones – at the same time municipalities and schools have been spending like it’s 2007. And, there’s the issue of the growing national debt and higher federal spending that we’ll have to contend with.

For now, with a third of the year behind us, you can find what comfort you can in knowing that you’re finally done working for the government this year. Your next 8 months on the job can be dedicated to you and your family. But then, the vicious cycle starts all over again. It kind of make you hunger for real tax freedom, doesn’t it?

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