The dream – or the nightmare – of a day without taxes

As the income tax filing deadline approaches, we return to a favorite blog post from our friend Paul Shinn that we first ran in 2009. You may also enjoy this video tribute to the many things we can be thankful our tax dollars help support. Click here  for four ways to find free tax help.

April 15. I’m not a fan of tax day. Who is? After several tortuous weeks of determining whether I have excess distributions from my 529 plan  and deciding how much I owe to the two states I lived in last year, I’m in line at the post office to send all these forms and too many checks to too many different governments. I’ve had it. Why can’t we make society work without taxes? I’m willing to try, I think, as I doze off…

In the morning, it slowly dawns on me that I’ve awakened in a tax-free America. So far, it’s great; I didn’t need to set the alarm! No real point in taking the kids to school, if it’s even open today. I’m not wealthy, so I can’t afford one of the schools that is open five days a week, requires the teachers to have a degree, uses textbooks, and has standards about what my kids should learn during the year. When little Heather asks about whether she can go to college, I just laugh. We can’t pay the tens of thousands of tuition for a private college. There’s no grant or loan programs and womens’ sports don’t make a profit, so there are no athletic scholarships awaiting her. Child care is risky too, since nobody determines if day care operators are qualified, safe, and not just in it to find victims for something.

Being a product of the same education “system,” I don’t have a job today. There’s such a glut of unskilled workers like me that we are lucky to get occasional day labor in dangerous jobs where we may or may not actually get paid for our work at the end of the day. There’s hope for more job options, however, since Mexico, India, and China are outsourcing more simple jobs to the U.S. due to our lack of labor and  environmental protections.

Eventually I jump in the car (without seat belts or exhaust controls) and head for the grocery store. What an adventure! I  pay several tolls to drive on streets that aren’t even paved!  Most road owners don’t make enough to maintain the roads and none cooperate to create common tolls, be sure the roads line up, or provide traffic signals where they intersect. Forget about public transit since it requires a tax subsidy even though its our most efficient means of transportation.

I drive very carefully, avoiding any chance of an accident. Without taxes, there is no neutral party to enforce laws or find fault in a collision. Even if I’m not at fault, there is not much point in taking my case to court. Courts  are financed through pay-per-verdict, so I’ll win only if I can outbid the jerk who hit me.

A lot of people don’t even try to go out. They stay home due to the threat of disease. Since nobody regulates what goes into food there are always people with salmonella, e coli, and complications from eating melamine. Without taxes to fund research, immunizations, and public health programs, there’s a lot more disease here than in more developed countries. It spreads like wildfire since so few people get adequate health care. If you come down with malaria or tuberculosis, you’d better have enough money to go to one of the few doctors who got to, if not through, one of the nation’s four medical schools. You wonder if it might be a good idea to have some authority who set standards for doctors, hospitals, and drug safety, but how would you pay for it?

When I get home, the house is gone! Without funding for local planning efforts there are no zoning or building codes. My neighbor’s tarpaper shack caught fire on a windy day, so my house burned down, too. You can’t work out community fire protection on a fee basis, so several houses were gone. No worries, though. The rumor is  someone is buying up neighboring properties to store toxic waste; that will kill property values and maybe us, too. Too bad we can’t find some way to separate residences from more dangerous land uses!

By the end of the day, I’m exhausted. I realize I’m in what a smart English guy called a few hundred years ago “war of all against all.” And I can’t stand it….

Happily, I wake up in line at the post office just in time to buy the stamps and send the taxes off. I’m still not smiling, but I’m okay with it.


Former Executive Director David Blatt joined OK Policy in 2008 and served as its Executive Director from 2010 to 2019. He previously served as Director of Public Policy for Community Action Project of Tulsa County and as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma State Senate. He has a Ph.D. in political science from Cornell University and a B.A. from the University of Alberta. David has been selected as Political Scientist of the Year by the Oklahoma Political Science Association, Local Social Justice Champion by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, and Public Citizen of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers.

3 thoughts on “The dream – or the nightmare – of a day without taxes

  1. Wow, the writer acts like there wouldnt be morals unless we are taxed and told what to do by our government. Its sad to see people like this. The fda, epa, faa, and all other gov. agencies are unelected law makers that foolishly are squandering our wealth away. This would be called taxation without representation. Maybe if the people had more money in there pockets they could spend more on services and product. Wake up! The only thing i see different from when we were a thriving country til now, is that our government has there hand in everything because they know best, and they give big percentages of our tax dollars away to welfare, corporations, and foreign countries.(undeveloped). Itsa scam!!

  2. @Robert, Wow, the rebutal mentions agencies that are part of the federal government when the article is specifically about reducing income taxes in the state of Oklahoma. The issue is not a federal on, it is a state one. Although I disagree with the writer regarding the impact of reducing income taxes (I think it will positively affect our economy as the Wall Street journal has reported), I also know that a thought out and relavent rebuttal should be presented. Get on the same page as the writer Robert or you’ll just sound like another ignoramous who spouts objections filled with irrelevance and conjecture.

  3. “April 15. I’m not a fan of tax day. Who is? ” Awe come on David, you know you love giving your money to the government. I mean what would you do with it? Think of all those needy souls lining up everyday waiting for their handout, or all that crumbling infrastructure and the wingnuts that need their funding for this useless study or that useless non profit organization. Can you really, as a left leaning liberal, have us believe that April 15th doesn’t feel like Christmas to you?!?

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