Thursday, October 16, 2008

Election Exercise #3: Tabulating My Taxes

note: smarty pants are my regular musings on current events; thus, I'm currently writing on the current elections.  It just makes sense.

Right from the onset of this third election exercise I have to confess that it is more like extra-credit than a regular assignment.  I mean, knowing where you need to go to vote and reading about the issues seem like obvious activities.  Tabulating your taxes, on the other hand?  Well, that's a stretch.  But it's one I decided to try this time around.

I got the idea to start paying more attention to the taxes I pay awhile ago.  For some reason it occurred to me that I have absolutely no idea how much I'm actually paying in taxes during any given month.  This is probably not surprising since I usually don't know how much I'm paying for anything during the month! (I'm working on changing that...).

And then somewhere from the archives of my memory I remembered someone once say that government's greatest power is not to wage war, but to tax.  Given that idea, I started to think that it was a little crazy that the government takes my money all the time and I don't even pay attention to how much I'm giving!  Even crazier is that during an election year I'm always asked to make decisions about taxes and I've never actually counted the dollars and cents!

So this year I decided to change that.  With my new nifty online budgeting program (, I've been using my receipts to record my "taxes" as a budget category.  And I started to look a lot closer at my utility and mortgage statements to see where I'm paying taxes there.  Incidentally, I now know approximately how much I'm spending in monthly taxes from purchases, property and utilities (it's almost $300!--imagine the clothes I could buy!).  And that, of course, does not include the Big Daddy of them all--income tax.

Now, I'm not saying that this information will prompt me to aggressively vote down all taxation--I still think taxes can be good.  But what I am saying is that making a choice about specific taxes through my vote seems kinda shortsighted if I don't know what that choice actually means to my pocketbook.  On an even larger scale (and especially with the recent passage of The Bailout), dismissing the government's ability to take my money by not actively participating in the process seems a little dangerous.  About as dangerous as choosing not to vote.

So, yes, I know that taking the time before election day to tabulate taxes seems like an activity for overachievers.  But it has definitely been an eye-opener for me.  And I feel better about my decisions regarding taxation now that I know how much money we're actually talking about.

Share your thoughts with me about taxation and this election cycle by commenting here or emailing me at!

For more election exercises, read the links below:

Stay tuned tomorrow for my final "back to the basics" post, where I answer the question "did it work?"  (Catch up on Back to the Basics by clicking here!)

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