Were were you on May 23, 2003? People ask this question for a lot of dates in our history. Where were you when Challenger exploded? Where were you when Kennedy was shot? Where were you that fateful morning on Sept. 11?
For me, May 23, 2003, passed without notice. There was no mass suicide bombing on our soil. There was no presidential assassination. I don't remember what the weather was like or what I wore to work. It turns out, however, that there was a national tragedy on that day. At the hands of 231 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, 50 U.S. senators and one Vice President of the United States. May 23, 2003, is the day that those people decided that I would owe taxes to the IRS for the first time since I've been paying them, and they did it while calling their plan "Tax Relief."
I remember noticing an increase in my paycheck last June. It was around $10. I remember being disappointed that all this money was going into tax relief, and only 10 bucks found its way to my pocket. Not much, considering my $27,000 gross annual income, but I thought little of it. Every penny counts. Little did I know, the tax cuts didn't result in my owing less money to the government. They just meant taking less of what I owe out of my paycheck, making it appear that I was keeping more of my own money. But now it has become all too clear to me: None of that tax cut was for me.
I spoke with the IRS, and I spoke with my human resources representative about how to fix it so that I don't owe again next year. And here's what I have to do. I have to stop counting myself as a deduction, and I have to have extra money taken out of my paycheck. All this just to ensure that I pay my fair share, whereas before the tax cuts I was paying more than my fair share with the deduction and the normal amount taken out of my check.
So how did this come to pass? Our tax code is incredibly complex. So complex that most Americans have no idea how changes are reflected when we fill out our tax forms. As a result, it's much easier to gain support for a policy by calling it a "tax cut" when you know people's eyes will just glaze over if you get into the nuts and bolts of this monster we call a tax code. And when people see their paychecks increase, they think it's working in their favor. Unless you're me and get kicked in the teeth when it all comes out in the wash.
Did no one know that some people would be affected this way? Who had this information and decided not to share it with us? It is hard to say, but I know whom to blame.
I blame the people who voted yea on the bill that started all of this. I blame the people who went to work on May 23, 2003, and voted to take advantage of me. If you are in the same position, you have Elizabeth Dole to blame, as Sen. John Edwards and Rep. David Price had the common sense to try to look out for people like us. This November, make sure you hold your representatives accountable for their choices.