Why Government Should Be the Last Resort

Tom Trinko
In the minds of liberals, the government should be given all power and responsibility, from protecting the country to deciding how big a soda we can buy.

They argue that only government has the wisdom, compassion, and intelligence to successfully herd the religion- and gun-clinging unwashed masses in flyover country through their lives.

But as anyone who has had to actually work with the government knows, the reality is that in spite of good intentions by many government workers, there is nothing less customer-friendly than the government at any level.

In California, when filing one's tax returns, one gets to enter all the items purchased on the internet for which one didn't already pay sales tax.

That's right: not only do Californians have to keep detailed records of all purchases and be able to identify which ones were done over the internet, but they also have to know if the company charged them sales tax, and how much, for every purchase they made.

Given that Californians are dealing with the same government that just decided that any teenage boy can shower in the girls' locker room if he simply declares that he's a girl at heart, it should be no surprise that there are arcane rules about what is and isn't taxable.  For example, it appears that if you download software from the internet, there is no sales tax, but if you have the vendor ship you a CD, there is.

Given that California has no way to find out if Californians aren't voluntarily paying this internet sales tax -- technically a use tax -- it's not surprising that fewer than 1% of people pay the use tax and that the state does not go after most offenders.

Of course, a law that makes 99% of the population criminals is bad enough, but leave it to California to make it worse.

If a Californian fails to pay his use tax when submitting his state tax forms and then tries to fix the problem by correcting, and refilling, his state tax return, he will discover just how inefficient government is.

Months after one sends the California government a check to correct his mistake, he will get a refund from the State for his use tax payment.  Is the citizen being rewarded for being good and honest?  No.

Instead, along with the "refund" check, the citizen is told that he can't pay use tax by amending his CA state tax form.  He must send a new check to a different part of the California government.  (That there are multiple bureaucracies to collect taxes is also a sign of inefficiency.)

Now, one might think that if this is a rare event, the state tax people just don't have any way to transfer your check to the other part of the CA government.  That would be bad enough, but it gets worse.

It turns out that this is apparently so common that the California government has a special designator code, "OU," for this, and the letter the Californian taxpayer receives contains detailed instructions on how to pay the "right" part of the California government.

Only the government would define a special code and require taxpayers to send via snail mail a new check rather than figure out how to simply transfer the taxpayer's money to the right part of the CA state government.

Reason 15,678,432 why government should be the last place we look to solve society's problems.

You can read more of Tom's rants at his blog, Conversations about the obvious.  Feel free to follow him on Twitter.

In the minds of liberals, the government should be given all power and responsibility, from protecting the country to deciding how big a soda we can buy.

They argue that only government has the wisdom, compassion, and intelligence to successfully herd the religion- and gun-clinging unwashed masses in flyover country through their lives.

But as anyone who has had to actually work with the government knows, the reality is that in spite of good intentions by many government workers, there is nothing less customer-friendly than the government at any level.

In California, when filing one's tax returns, one gets to enter all the items purchased on the internet for which one didn't already pay sales tax.

That's right: not only do Californians have to keep detailed records of all purchases and be able to identify which ones were done over the internet, but they also have to know if the company charged them sales tax, and how much, for every purchase they made.

Given that Californians are dealing with the same government that just decided that any teenage boy can shower in the girls' locker room if he simply declares that he's a girl at heart, it should be no surprise that there are arcane rules about what is and isn't taxable.  For example, it appears that if you download software from the internet, there is no sales tax, but if you have the vendor ship you a CD, there is.

Given that California has no way to find out if Californians aren't voluntarily paying this internet sales tax -- technically a use tax -- it's not surprising that fewer than 1% of people pay the use tax and that the state does not go after most offenders.

Of course, a law that makes 99% of the population criminals is bad enough, but leave it to California to make it worse.

If a Californian fails to pay his use tax when submitting his state tax forms and then tries to fix the problem by correcting, and refilling, his state tax return, he will discover just how inefficient government is.

Months after one sends the California government a check to correct his mistake, he will get a refund from the State for his use tax payment.  Is the citizen being rewarded for being good and honest?  No.

Instead, along with the "refund" check, the citizen is told that he can't pay use tax by amending his CA state tax form.  He must send a new check to a different part of the California government.  (That there are multiple bureaucracies to collect taxes is also a sign of inefficiency.)

Now, one might think that if this is a rare event, the state tax people just don't have any way to transfer your check to the other part of the CA government.  That would be bad enough, but it gets worse.

It turns out that this is apparently so common that the California government has a special designator code, "OU," for this, and the letter the Californian taxpayer receives contains detailed instructions on how to pay the "right" part of the California government.

Only the government would define a special code and require taxpayers to send via snail mail a new check rather than figure out how to simply transfer the taxpayer's money to the right part of the CA state government.

Reason 15,678,432 why government should be the last place we look to solve society's problems.

You can read more of Tom's rants at his blog, Conversations about the obvious.  Feel free to follow him on Twitter.