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Nothing left but change

I used to think April 15 was the day you had to fear the most when it came to taxes. Now I fear every day because each tax proposal is more frightening than the next.

From health care, global warming, economic bailouts and two wars at the national level to parks, roads and public safety on the state and local level, government's thirst for revenue seems unquenchable.

And it's only going to get worse. The federal government reported this week that collections are down a whopping 34 percent. That's $138 billion, a sum considered to be a lot of money once upon a time.

Here in Georgia, the state won't be extending its portion of property tax homestead exemptions. And the Gwinnett County Commission would like for you to pony up an extra $200 a year, though they seem to be rethinking that after the protest the other night.

I can not help but think of America's colonial period, when the British Empire - which was deep in debt and attempting to exert iron-fisted control over its colonies - passed act after act taxing everything from molasses and tea to printed material. The difference today is, allegedly, we have representation for our taxation. Our "representatives" notwithstanding, modern attempts to take more control while simultaneously taking more money has me looking for a flag that says "Don't Tread on Me" and has a tri-cornered hat.

Bringing at least two tax increases with it is the attempt to extend health care to the uninsured, whose numbers run anywhere from a few million to everyone, depending on which talk show host is ranting.

First, and most costly, is the attempt to tax your health care benefits, an idea that was horrible when Sen. John McCain floated it during the campaign but now is apparently OK. With this plan, in addition to paying premiums and deductibles you can't afford for insurance that doesn't cover anything, you'll also get to pay a tax, too.

The other proposed tax is on Cokes, what Yankees call soda. The idea is to pay for health care reform while discouraging you from drinking all those sugary drinks. In true American fashion, more people are madder about this one, for now, at least until their employer drops health benefits altogether rather than deal any more with the federal regulations and cost.

To save the environment, there's the cap-and-trade part of the energy bill, which is basically a tax on carbon emissions. The caps are an attempt to force businesses to use alternative energy and lower carbon emissions. A business can bypass the tax by using credits called allowances. Whether the government will sell the allowances to raise revenue seems to be undetermined, but I know which one I'd, uh, put my money on.

Government hasn't seen a behavior yet that it didn't want to regulate through legislation or a change it didn't want to tax into existence. Forcing us to do its bidding and taking more of our money has become the standard.

When our ancestors had enough of that sort of thing, they rose up against it. Before it comes to that again, why not try a little common sense? Why not offer incentives instead of punishments? Why not govern prudently instead of recklessly? Why not serve the people instead of serving only at the altar of power?

Speaking of "Common Sense," Thomas Paine also wrote this about taxes in "Rights of Man""

"If, from the more wretched parts of the old world, we look at those which are in an advanced stage of improvement, we still find the greedy hand of government thrusting itself into every corner and crevice of industry, and grasping the spoil of the multitude. Invention is continually exercised, to furnish new pretenses for revenues and taxation. It watches prosperity as its prey and permits none to escape without tribute."

Today's proposals are supposed to pay for "change we can believe in," but it seems little has changed in the 218 years since Paine made his observation. And if we keep going down the road we're on, that's all we'll have left - change.

The pocket kind.

E-mail Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays.