Randy Forbes: How many times are you taxed a day?

randy forbesMeet Lindsay. She’s an energetic 34-year-old mom of a kindergartner and a preschooler. She and her husband, Todd, don’t make a ton of money, but they are comfortable.

They drive a safe, fuel-efficient car and they own a home.  They buy groceries at Martin’s. Most of the time Lindsay uses coupons so she can afford those pesky expensive things like razor blades and laundry detergent. They buy their kids new toys and clothes on occasion, but they look forward to the yearly hand-me-downs from Lindsay’s sister. Lindsay tries hard to manage her money and expenditures well. Yet, every day ­– several times a day – she doles out money to Uncle Sam.

When Lindsay wakes up in the morning, she flips on the light and taxes are levied on the electricity she is using. She walks to the bathroom, turns on the water to brush her teeth. She is taxed on the water as it comes out of the faucet. She’s taxed again as the water swirls down the drain.

Lindsay heads downstairs to make breakfast for her children. She pulls out bread for toast, jelly, blueberries, and milk. She also pulls out a couple of snacks to throw in her purse – they have a morning of school supply shopping ahead of them. As she looks at the items lying across her kitchen counter, she realizes she paid taxes on all of them at the grocery store.

Lindsay loads up her kids in the family car. As she starts the ignition and adjusts the rearview mirror, she is reminded that she has been taxed on her Virginia license plate that gives her the privilege to drive her car. On her way to Target, Lindsay stops at the gas station to fill up her tank.  Between pumping her gas and making silly faces at her kids through the window, she notices the little sign on the gas pump that reminds her that she is not only being taxed locally on this fuel, but must also pay the state and federal gas tax.

At Target, Lindsay stands in front of a mammoth display of colored notebooks and yellow #2 pencils. She drops items in her cart, cross-checking them against the school-provided list and saying repeatedly to her daughter, “No, we can’t buy the purple sparkle back pack.” She rolls her eyes at the fact that she will pay taxes on these school supplies ­– her family will be out of town on tax-free back to school shopping weekend.

As she gets back in her car, Lindsay’s phone rings. It’s her husband reminding her to schedule routine maintenance on the car. As she chats with him, she’s taxed on the airwaves for the privilege of using her cell phone. And when her car maintenance is complete, she will be taxed on the parts she purchased at her mechanic’s shop.

As Lindsay and her children arrive back at home, she shuttles the Target bags into the house and steps back outside to pick up the mail. She sighs as she walks back inside, noticing that the house needs a fresh coat of paint, the yard desperately needs mowing, and how it would be really nice to have some landscaping done to spruce up the place. There’s just not enough money to do it now.

Lindsay turns on the TV to let her children watch an episode of their favorite show on Nickelodeon. As she flips the channel, she remembers the line item on her cable bill that reads “taxes and fees.” She’s taxed just to let her kids watch TV.

Lindsay heads over to the kitchen table to open the mail. It’s the real estate tax assessment, credit card offers, and her paycheck for her part-time job. Finally. But 35% – 40% of it is gone. The federal income tax, FICA, and state income tax have reduced her paycheck to what seems like almost nothing, especially after half of it will go to pay the babysitter.

Lindsay steps outside her back door and onto her deck, trying to relax without being taxed on one more thing in her life. As she lets the sun hit her face, the family dog, Bowser, rounds the corner and sits next to her feet. She reaches down to rub Bowser’s head and her fingers catch his collar. The tags jingle around Bowser’s neck. Lindsay remembers that she paid taxes simply so her family could own a pet…

Lindsay’s day is probably not far off from each of our days. Daily, Americans are hit with taxes from the moment we wake to the moment we go to sleep. When the “tax raisers” in Washington talk about raising our taxes, they always talk about just one of the many taxes we pay, and suggest that increases will not be so bad. What they miss – and what you and I feel – is not just the single tax, but the cumulative weight of all the taxes we pay, a weight that is strangling most ordinary Americans.

Our tax system is complex and confusing. It discourages job growth and overall competitiveness, and it discourages every day Americans who want to live their lives without the stress of Uncle Sam knocking at their doors. That’s why it is concerning when leaders in Washington talk about increasing taxes in order to spur economic growth and address federal debt. Americans are left wondering “how much more can I be taxed?” That’s why their response and mine is often, “enough is enough!”

Randy Forbes represents the Fourth District in Congress.

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