Never Too Old to Serve - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Never Too Old to Serve

This year Tax Freedom Day (the first day of the year in which the nation as a whole has theoretically earned enough income to fund its annual tax burden) is likely to fall on or around the first of May. A century ago, Tax Freedom Day arrived in mid-to-late January. Just a little something to chew on while you’re mailing that $200 check off to H&R Block.

If you’re like me you will wait till the last minute to file. Not because I tend to procrastinate — though I do — but because I am in no hurry to give the gangsters in Congress my cash so they can fund their bridges to nowhere.

For the elderly tax season is becoming and especially heavy burden. Take the in-no-way unique case of Audrey Davison, 76, of Greenburgh, N.Y. Ms. Davison, who suffers from severe arthritis, sciatica, and needs a walker to get around, has been living in the same home for 43 years. Indeed she raised a whole litter of children there.

Now, faced with higher and higher tax bills, seniors like Granny Davison are forced to choose between selling their homes and moving to a — how shall I put it? — less desirable neighborhood, or having the local government seize the old homestead.

Not to worry though, Greenburgh’s elected officials have a solution. The local government — the one that created the problem by overvaluing homes in order to keep raising taxes — that local government, you see, cares about its elderly citizens.

“People shouldn’t have to sell their house, move away to a place with less taxes, leave behind their family and friends,” says Greenburgh’s Town Supervisor Paul Feiner, a man who doesn’t seem know the difference between “less” and “fewer.”

So Greenburgh will put its septuagenarians and octogenarians to work till they pay off their taxes. It’s a quaint notion, reminiscent of indentured servitude, which, after all, was good enough for our great-great-great-great-grandmothers.

Only this time it’s called a tax-workoff program.

According to an Associate Press story, Town Supervisor Feiner “envisions retired doctors mentoring schoolchildren, retired accountants helping with the town’s finances, retired lawyers offering their services for a discount.”

Okay, so Town Supervisor Feiner doesn’t sound like the brightest bulb on the tree. Doctors, accountants and lawyers are the probably the only ones who can afford to pay their tax bills. It is po’ folks like Ms. Davison, and other lifelong homemakers without medical or law degrees, who are out of luck.

If the seniors aren’t laughing, Town Supervisor Feiner is at least able to keep his sense of humor about him. “It’s not like we’re going to see grandma running the snowplow,” he says, doubtless proud of his witticism.

Oh, and there’s an added bonus. The local government won’t have to hire immigrants of dubious citizenship to do its landscaping, now that it has a large and desperate labor pool of elderly residents to dip into.

SADLY GREENBURGH is not unique. Similar programs have already been established in Colorado, Massachusetts, and South Carolina.

So far, the seniors’ lobbying group, the AARP, seems content to focus its efforts on warning seniors about shyster tax preparers, and is silent on the arguably more serious subject of indentured servitude.

Back in Greenburgh, local officials continue to see nothing wrong with a tax base so high that lifelong residents are run out of town, just as Congress sees nothing wrong with a Social Security system that is soon to go bust.

Speaking of which, Granny Davison collects $620 a month in Social Security and pays $12,000 a year in property taxes and has been forced to take a reverse mortgage to pay her bills. And yet the problem, to hear Greenburgh officials talk, is that the seniors are too idle.

Officials do admit one problem with tax-workoff program. There is simply not enough money in the budget to put to work every oldster who cannot afford to pay his or her taxes.

In Boulder County, Colorado, there are 250 seniors signed up for the 100 available positions. That means 150 seniors will have to sell their homes in order that 150 vigorous, young, taxpaying upper-middle-class couples can move in, an outcome that no doubt suits Boulder County just fine. (I suspect the Boulder County and Greenburgh government officials have voted themselves nice retirement packages so they will never have to face such a similar predicament.)

For now the government will put Granny Davison to work answering phones or raking leaves or some other make-work task. God forbid that these towns and counties should consider lowering taxes.

And God forbid Granny Davison should live another ten years and lose her hearing or her sight. What position would the town officials find for her then? Doormat?

Christopher Orlet is a frequent contributor to The American Spectator online.

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