The line “I have measured out my life in coffee spoons,” keeps stirring in my head today (T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”). The image speaks to an existence of no importance… an existence that is trivial. Perhaps Eliot could have chosen a better one. He might have written, “I have measured out my life in ticky-tacky bits of paper.” Trivial is how I feel every year when I take the sum total of my invoices, receipts, 1099s, 1099rs, bank statements, and investment statements to my tax preparer. It’s hideous to note that my history can be contained in an 8 x 10 inch manila envelope.
I can’t imagine what I’ve ever done to my government that it should vent its ire and require me to reduce my life to a set of pluses and minuses on shards of paper… paper that should rightfully be shredded rather than saved in a bin in my basement for 7 years. I’ve always felt I’ve treated my government with respect: I vote in every election; I answer questionnaires sent by my Congressmen and I read their e-mails before I hit the delete button. What’s more, I’ve never incited anyone to insurrection. So why am I subjected this annual humiliation?
A Congress clever enough to pay farmers not to grow crops or to construct bridges to nowhere should be able to simplify the tax code. It might happen one day, if taxpayers complain loudly enough. I have a funny feeling, though, when Congress finally manages it, income will be obsolete.