So what are our national leaders up to?

Well, I can’t speak for your national leader. But I’ve been keeping an eye on mine.

The first thing President Barak Obama does is a $700-billion economic stimulus. Wasn’t that the last thing President George W. Bush did? Didn’t America just spend $700 billion? And now America’s spending $700 billion again? Or am I getting old? Little problem with my hearing? Echo in the Miracle Ear?

$700 billion Bush financial bail-out plus $787 billion Obama stimulus package plus a $3.6 trillion federal budget — add all that together and it equals … more money than there is. There ain’t that much money. The Obama administration is taking more money than we, you or anybody else has got.

The 1 trillion, 487 billion dollars that America is spending on the financial bail-out plus the economic stimulus package is equal to more than a year’s worth of US individual and corporate income tax payments put together.

Which raises the question: instead of a bail-out and a stimulus, why not no taxes for a year? Zero. Zip. None. Stop taxing us!

Would this be an economic stimulus? Uh, yeah. A stimulus? Comparing no taxes to what the Obama administration is doing is like comparing Viagra to Tylenol PM. Would this be a financial bail-out? I guess so. A bail-out? Just let that old Wall Street rowboat sink. “Cause we’re getting a new yacht!”

But, no taxes? This will never fly.

Why not? Because no taxes — that only puts money in the pocket of people who pay taxes. Politicians can’t buy votes like that. People don’t love a politician for giving them their own money that the politician just snatched. This is like running off with a man’s wife and expecting him to thank you when you drop her off at home the next day.

Robin Hood didn’t steal from the rich and give to the … rich. Likewise, politicians who pretend that they’re Robin Hood have to give tax money to people who don’t pay taxes.

And do you know how many people pay taxes, statistically speaking? None.

Let me give you a little math on this. The annual US federal government expenditure is close to 3 trillion dollars. There are about 300 million Americans. Federal expenditure is something like $10,000 per year per person. (Slightly less than in Australia.) So an American family of four is getting $40,000 a year spent on it by the federal government. Which means this family of four would have to be paying $40,000 a year in federal income tax just to break even.

After using all possible income tax deductions plus the customary amount of cheating on taxes, that means a family income of over $160,000 a year. Which makes this family among America’s wealthiest families — in the top 5%.

Give my figures a plus or minus 5% margin of error and you see that, statistically speaking, nobody pays taxes. We’re all on the teat. We’re sponges. The citizens of every Western democracy are a bunch of blood-suckers. And the G-20 remedy for this recession is like the medical treatment back in the days of Adam Smith — apply more leeches!

P.J. O’Rourke delivers a National Press Club Address in Canberra today. This is an extract of a lecture delivered to the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney, last night.

Peter Fray

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