Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Hidden Taxes, Hidden Unions

Complaining about the amount of the taxes that we pay is perhaps the only real right not spelled out in the first ten amendments to the Constitution, though it could of course said to have been spelled out in the Declaration of Independence.  And while we all talk about Income Tax (at the national, state, and often municipal level), Social Security Tax, Property Tax, and Sales Tax; the list of ways in which government finds to tax us seems to go on forever.

Though many of us believe that this is the extent of that which we need complain about, there are many more hidden taxes that we also pay in our daily lives.  Rather than just list them however, let's take a bit of a literary license with a hypothetical situation of someone in 'pursuit of happiness':

Let's say for example that you want to start you own business on land that you already own (and are therefore already paying taxes on).  First of course, you'll have to pay to get a building permit issued in order to place a structure for your use on land that you own, paying a tax to the municipality for permission for the privilege of doing so.  Once construction is almost complete and regardless of the abilities, reputation, and even union affiliation (or lack of it) of the workers used; you will now need to obtain a Certificate of Occupation.  That certificate of course, will only be issued upon a city inspection for which a 'fee' (code word for tax) is required.  Having completed this process however, you might assume that you are done and can begin your actual pursuit, but you'd be wrong.  Still remaining is a Business License, yet another tax in fee form that you must pay in order to legally do business in a building that you now own, built on land that you own.

And heaven forbid if that business is one that serves food and liquor; as these require not only an additional Health Inspection and yet another fee, but additional permission and license to sell a legal beverage (alcohol) in the business you own on the property you own.  More paperwork and permission, and of course more fees for permission to do so.

Perhaps you'd like to leave a dog at this premises to guard your investment while you're not there.  All well and good my friend, but that pet / guard had better have a dog license (at what is no doubt a reasonable fee) or you'll have trouble with either the city or county, depending on which has their hand out.

Now perhaps before putting your nose to the grindstone and knowing that they'll be little leisure time in the days ahead if you're to make a go if it, you decide to take a vacation. You'd better watch out before clicking on that deal of an airfare.  In a recent Bloomberg report, travelers found that the $150 transatlantic deal they just got may prove to be $800 by the time the taxes and fees are added in.  In a specific trip mentioned on Delta from Atlanta to London Heathrow, the $338.40 base airfare had almost double that amount in taxes and fees added to it (another $599.20) before any bags could be packed.  And while the hidden nature of some of these fees and taxes are now no longer possible, the taxes and fees yet remain.

Taxes are not the only thing going on more or less out of sight though.  There are also Unions which, though not acknowledged by their members, restrict membership to drive up wages just as surely as if they were the UAW or SEIU.

Do you want to become a doctor?  Fine, but in order to do so you must first train at an accredited institution for such a purpose, then serve an apprenticeship (commonly known as residency) before getting your diploma and being allowed to hang out your shingle.  Why even the Hippocratic oath speaks to this restrictive principle involved, "Those things which are sacred, are to be imparted only to sacred persons; and it is not lawful to impart them to the profane until they have been initiated into the mysteries of the science."  (This certainly sounds like the basis of a closed shop to me.)

There may be differences between the AMA and the IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers), but you'd be hard-pressed to discover them from the way they operate.  It should likewise be noted that such practices restrict membership and drive up the level of compensation, or at least they did until government bureaucracy took its place in the equation and mandated price controls through what it paid in fees by Medicare and Medicaid.

But doctors aren't alone in such secret membership.  One might just as easily point to lawyers and their State Bar Associations.  Study at an accredited institution as long as you like, but you can't become a practicing lawyer until you pass an exam and become a Journeyman (or as they put it, are "admitted to the Bar").  Even then, you are required to pay dues to the State Bar Association where you've been admitted, and get yourself tested and admitted in every other state in which you wish to practice.  Here too has restricted membership kept fees fairly stable (and high) and allowed those laboring in this covert trade union to maintain a relatively high rate of recompense.  

One can, without stretching the point too finely, include most Political Parties in this country in the mix.  Members do in fact pay dues, and by so doing do gain voting rights within their organization, even when the voting is in primary elections paid for not by the party, but by the taxpayer.  And while not every state holds to such restrictions, most favor closed shop elections for those running for public office.  If this were not so, why are Independent candidates, or those from other parties (like Libertarians) forced to operate under different petition rules and often kept from participating in the public debates for these public office.

It's hard enough dealing with the frustration caused by restrictive taxes and restrictive rules imposed by the partnership of government and unions on many parts of our day-to-day existence that we can clearly see in this country.  It's particularly confounding however, to find out how much of the money being taken and how many of the strings being pulled are being done through Hidden Taxes and Hidden Unions.


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