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Actions and Consequences

Tuesday, June 29, 2010
I was listening to NPR in the car this morning and I heard a story come on about how many Gulf-area fisherman, impacted by BP's oil spill in the gulf, were going to have difficulty collecting from BP's $20-billion relief fund because they run cash-only businesses.

The article didn't exactly fill me with sympathy. But the part that really raised my ire was this:
Not paying taxes is, of course, illegal. But St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro says it would be unfair to penalize the fishermen now for past misdeeds.
Wait a minute, Craig. Are you saying that, just because they've been cheating on their taxes, they shouldn't be excluded from benefits where they have to show documented income? Is the implication here that actions shouldn't have consequences?

Now I'm a pretty laid-back guy. I'm passionately moderate about a lot of topics. But, as a taxpayer who has dutifully (if not painfully) paid his fair share of taxes, I'm actually appalled that it might even be suggested that the people who didn't pay taxes in the past are now victims because they can't collect money now. Sure, their livelyhood has been tragically impacted by this disaster. And if they had been paying taxes on that livelyhood like the rest of us have to, I'd be the most sympathetic man alive. But it sounds like, by avoiding taxes, they were just collecting an advance on the money they'd otherwise be getting.

So here's my final solution to this problem: if the fishermen and dock workers want to claim that they're financially impacted, that's fine. They can claim and offer whatever documentation they have to prove they they should be making a certain amount of money. But then they have to pay back taxes dating back to when they either a) first moved to the area, or b) last filed a similar-sized tax return.

I mean, that seems fair enough to me. Or, like the rest of us have to, they can just live with the consequences of their actions.

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