Sometime in the near future ...
(Knock, knock, knock)
I open the door.
Man at door: Hello. I'm the Tax man.
Me: I don't suppose you're here because you didn't refund enough.
Tax man: Oh no, sir. The federal Stimulus Cash Reward for the Expansion of Workers' Economic Deprivation Act of 2009 prohibits income tax refunds to working individuals in any amount over $1.
Me: The federal what?
Tax man: It's a new law passed by Congress. It aims to help everyone equally by collecting everyone's money, then redistributing it to those who need it most, like banks. It helps preserve the power of the government to help you. President Barack Obama thought it up last week over lunch.
Me: Yeah, I saw that he and Joe went to Burger King. It made the cover of Newsweek.
Tax man: Yes sir, well, the president said, "Joe, taking this big ol' bite out of this big ol' hamburger has got me thinking, you know, that even though I took a big bite, there's more of this hamburger to eat." Then he just started writing on a napkin.
Me: Kinda like when Richard Dreyfuss' mashed potatoes remind him of the big mountain where the aliens are going to land in "Close Encounters?"
Tax man: I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with that film. They discourage fun at the IRS. (Slaps forehead.) I mean the HOPE.
Tax man: Yes, sir. It's our new name. More friendly sounding.
Me: What's it stand for?
Tax man, casting his eyes downward: I don't think we're supposed to say.
Me, leaning in: Just between me and you.
Tax man, whispering: Helping Out Politicians Everywhere.
Tax man: Anyway, sir, as I was saying, this new law took effect immediately, and I'm here to collect some funds.
Me: For what?
Tax man: Oh, you know, schools, roads, the wars, the Go-Fish program, health care for aliens ...
Me: You mean like illegal immigrants?
Tax man: No, sir, actual aliens. From outer space. Heh, heh, that's funny, because you talked about aliens a minute ago. So this is what humor feels like.
Me: Health care for aliens? And Go-Fish? That's a state program. Why are you collecting for that? I don't understand.
Tax man: The act consolidates all tax collecting at the federal level and empowers the IR- uh, the HOPE to draw funds from any source it deems appropriate. As for the aliens, the government was concerned that invaders from outer space might land here and then get sick or hurt and not be able to pay for it.
Me: Oddly enough, that last thing doesn't shock me as much as that first thing you said.
Tax man: The consolidation of power? Oh, that's imperative, sir. Only the federal government truly knows what's good for everyone. For example, right here in Georgia, your local DOT wants to make you pay extra to go faster. Great idea, right? But then we thought, why not pay more to go slower, too?
Me, thinking about traffic: Don't I do that already? I pay gasoline tax, ad valorem tax, sales tax, special-purpose sales tax, property tax, state and federal income taxes - doesn't some of that pay for the roads?
Tax man: Yes, sir, it pays to build the roads. But it doesn't pay for the privilege of driving on those roads.
Me: You sure about that?
Tax man: Yes, sir. Only the feds know at what speed you should drive and at what cost. It's just like the problems with your local governments. They collect taxes to pay for schools, fire trucks, stuff like that. But what about other people? For example, why should your county have 50 fire trucks and a county in California only have 49?
Me, tentatively: Maybe they only need 49?
Tax man: No. They need 50 because you have 50. But they can't afford 50, so we even it out for them. No more pesky discrepancies. And we're going to do it for everything: schools, hospitals, transportation, you name it.
Me: So how much of my money do I get to keep?
Tax man, shaking his head: Your money? Hee hee! That's funny, too. I love this humor stuff. But to answer your question, we'll let you know.
Me: You're making my head hurt. I think I need a doctor.
Tax man: Now you're getting it.
Me: I am?
Tax man: Yes. Now how much do you need for a doctor?
Me: But I thought you were here to collect.
Tax man: That was before. Now you need help. So I'll just take more from the guy next door.
Me: But what if he needs help, too? What if everybody needs help? Then who's gonna pay?
Tax man: That, my friend, is where our printing presses at the U.S. Mint come in.
Me: Can I have that doctor now?
E-mail Nate McCullough at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Fridays.