Future humans will find the image above completely inscrutable. I’m kidding—they won’t be able to look at it, because the loss of present-day operating systems will turn all digital files into gibberish. It’s inevitable, just like death and, presuming I can get a free minute this weekend, taxes. Pretty much all the inevitable things suck. Otherwise we wouldn’t be trying to evit them in the first place. Today is Friday, and all that might have been avoided has come to pass. All that cannot be prevented will happen, too. Won’t you hurtle forward helplessly into the gaping maw of the future with me?
Here a news item from Washington that is heartening in context and brutally depressing otherwise: the Senate has mustered the necessary 60 votes to begin debating a gun control bill. Ah, the age of filibuster. It takes a supermajority to even talk about changing federal law now, which makes one wonder what, philosophically, individual Senators could possibly think of their role in the US government. If you’re one of the guys whose job it is to prevent the Senate from debating things, do you regard yourself as serving your country?
Nah—being a Senator is a job like any other. You do it for the money, and you spend most of your time trying to placate your boss. Q.v. Senator Max Baucus (D–MT,) who presently has 28 former aides working as tax lobbyists. You may remember Max Baucus from January’s $500 million gift to Amgen—a pharmaceutical company whose lobbyists include Baucus’s former chief of staff. As Ezra Klein points out, the problem is not that Baucus invariably gives these former employees-cum-lobbyists exactly what they want. It’s that he has a growing number of friends on Capitol Hill—people he knows and trusts, and to whom he is naturally inclined to respond favorably—who are paid to leverage their friendship with him into useful legislation.
Senators aren’t in the pocket of massive corporations, but pretty much all the people they talk to are. Maybe that’s why the United States collects less in taxes as a portion of GDP than all but two OECD nations. This despite our storied highest corporate tax rate in the world and the double FICA that I personally will render unto Caesar this weekend. Turkey collects a higher percentage of taxes than we do. That’s the kind of system you get when you start writing loopholes into the code for, say, the company that hired your former legislative aide.
Running a government is hard, though, and it’s easy to overlook small mistakes. For example, you might forget to put In God We Trust on the new dollar coins, prompting a national outcry. Those who cry out might realize that In God We Trust is actually printed on the sides of said coins, but don’t count on it. This is maybe my favorite Snopes entry ever, because it harnesses the power of the internet to refute a rumor that the credulous might have disproven by slightly rotating a coin. Never underestimate the power of motivated belief.
For example, this man believed his doing-taxes-with-the-cat video was funny. I do not endorse the funniness of the video. I found it when I was searching for a cats/taxes video on YouTube, and it made me laugh not once. It is an object of weirdly compelling fascination for me, however, in much the same way that a carpenter will stop to look at a falling-down shed:
Maybe it’s his reliance on a housecat as the straight man. Or maybe it’s his hat—if you are under 50, you must never, ever wear that kind of hat. Don’t worry. You’ll be 50 eventually, and then you can wear that hat all you want, unless you’re dead. One or the other—it’s inevitable.