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by Alan Benson

Like a lot of you, I've been spending the past couple of weeks fantasizing about the massive tax cut that's coming to us this summer. (What are you gonna do with your 300 bucks? Me, I'm thinking of rehabbing a small neighborhood. Or maybe I'll start a new, 50-person company. That oughta show ole Mr. Recession who's boss.)

But then I got to thinking. Our federal taxes go for tons of good things — the Army, the FBI's elite armed kid-standoff squadron, those guys who are doing such a phenomenal job keeping the super-secret Area 51 hidden. But taxation doesn't stop at the Federal level. There's also state taxes, city taxes, sales taxes, and those "friend taxes" both of my pals started collecting from me last month.

It suddenly struck me that I was paying a lot of taxes. And for what? City services I rarely, if ever, used.

At this point, I got mad. Seriously mad. Nepalese royal family-killin' mad. The government was siphoning cheddar out of my wallet, and I wasn't reaping benefit one. In my outrage, I rent my garments, crying "my government, my government, why art thou screwing me?"

Luckily for me, salvation was at hand. My subsequent free trip downtown and first-hand tour of L.A.'s prison system (Important safety tip: Wait until you're off the bus and away from the old folks' tour group before rending any garments.) showed me the way. It wasn't the government's fault that I was getting jack in return for my tax payments, it was mine. If I wanted to directly benefit from my tax payments, I was going to have to make a point of searching out and using as many as I could.

And so, without further ado, I present seven easy steps to get the most from your local tax dollar.
  1. Use the Facilities: It takes money — our money — to heat and/or air condition governmental buildings to that level of uncomfortable stuffiness where the wheels of bureaucracy turn best. The money's been spent, so there's no reason why you shouldn't benefit. Make it a point to spend as much time as possible just hanging out there. It's a governmental good time!

  2. Put the Staff to Work: Every day, all over town, local government employees congregate to do the people's business. But who defines "people's business?" Who's to say that the people's business isn't, say, the city council listening attentively to long, involved tales about your college drinking buddies? Or maybe the people's business is having a road crew spend six hours building a diorama for your kid's science fair?

  3. Get Fired Up: Every time you reluctantly slow and hint at pulling to the side of the road to let a fire truck pass, you're actually seeing your tax dollars in action. All of us pay for fire trucks 24/7, even if they're not in use that often. Getting rid of these expensive vehicles would be stupid. Instead, you should maximize the time that your town's fire trucks are in action by going out and setting lots of small fires.

  4. Be Street Smart: There's absolutely no reason to have a city works department if they're not actually doing city work. That's why I want every one of you to run out and rip the hell out of your street. Keeping the paving machines moving means your taxes are working their hardest.

  5. Go to the Dogs: How do you define "loose dog?" Smart taxpayers define "loose dog" as "any dog at all" and keep their animal control officers workin' hard.

  6. Ride the Lines: Go to city hall and stand in as many lines as possible. When it's your turn, engage the clerks in conversation. Hey, you're paying for them to be there, they might as well chime in on your theory that Pizza Hut sauce contains tiny tracking units they use for nefarious marketing purpose, right?

  7. Run, Run, Run from the Boys in Blue: It's a fact of police life that an average day is a series of tense moments interspersed with long periods of boredom. Lots of times, your local police are just driving around looking for crime. This is terribly wasteful. And unfortunately, all of the criminal organizations I spoke to rejected my proposal that they move all of their law-breaking activities to within a few blocks of a police station. So instead, I've implemented a policy I call "implied crime." Every time I see a police car, I immediately freak and bolt. This gives our law enforcement officials some much-needed practice in the art of the chase. And it's good aerobic exercise. Everyone wins!

Using these simple tips, you can rest assured that any dollars you contribute to the societal till are being blown on your dippy shenanigans. Congratulations!

© copyright 2001 The Van Gogh-Goghs