Saturday, February 11, 2012

If You Build It, They Will Come

If you drive a car, I'll tax the street, If you try to sit, I'll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I'll tax the heat, If you take a walk, I'll tax your feet.

Don't ask me what I want it for If you don't want to pay some more
'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman

- The Beatles -

Seven-year-old Carter King likes to fish with his dad. He likes it so much that he and his dad built a fourteen-foot wooden boat in the garage together so they could go fishing more often. Being good citizens, (or knowing they'd get nabbed by the state if they didn't have a bunch of ugly letters and numbers painted on the side) they properly registered the boat, paying the appropriate fees.

Not long after, Mr. King began receiving letters from the Tennessee Department of Revenue, informing him that because he was a boat dealer and manufacturer, he owed an additional $539 in taxes on the boat.

Of course, Mr. King assumed it was a mistake, so he contacted the auditor assigned to his case. Nope, there was no mistake. The state knew the boat was built by Carter and his dad in their garage, for their own use. Indeed, the state doubled down, warning that the family could face injunctions or misdemeanor charges if they don't pay up.

The Department of Revenue isn't talking. Requests for interviews are rejected, not only for this particular case, but about the issue in general.

When you have the guns and cuffs, own the courts and hold the keys to the jail cells, why be reasonable about $539?

Mr. King, instead of focusing on the piddling $539, should be preparing his operation for an onslaught of other government agencies, now that he's been declared a boat dealer and manufacturer.

He can expect OSHA any day, to poke and prod their way through his garage and around the rest of the property, making sure the steps have guardrails of the proper height and the edges are delimited with a bright warning color. They'll be looking for sharp things that can cut or punch skin, and making sure that all the employees are adequately protected from their failure to recognize that those tools are dangerous. They'll want to know where the massive fans are to clear the noxious fumes out of the painting booth, and make sure all the cutting and sanding devices are equipped properly to clear sawdust from the working areas.

The EPA representative will be along to make sure that all the wood shavings are properly disposed of, all the noxious chemicals are properly stored, not retained past their expiration date, and properly disposed of when no longer needed or legal for use. Samples of the soil all around the garage will have to be taken, to assure the property hasn't been contaminated so that it is uninhabitable. They'll also be taking wood samples to assure that no exotic woods from foreign countries were smuggled into the country to be used in the boat.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement will pay a visit to make sure there are no illegal aliens employed in the boat manufacturing operation. I hope for Carter's sake he has a legal social security number and appropriate papers, or he may end up being deported to Columbia.

The Food and Drug Administration will certainly be by to inspect the cooking facilities that provide meals for the workers. The kitchen will have to be upgraded, with industrial food service equipment replacing the cheap stuff Mrs. King bought at Wal-Mart. All the food will have to be tested to assure there's no more than the legally-specified amounts of salt, sugar, and other dangerous substances used in the food preparation. It goes without saying, of course, that the milk will be certified as having been processed by an approved company, since Mr. King has already demonstrated the sort of attitude that leads to having a cow hidden away on the property somewhere, making unauthorized milk not intended for human consumption.

Let's not forget the Department of Justice and their anti-trust lawyers. Did Carter have the option to obtain his boat from another manufacturer, or is Mr. King guilty of cornering the market through unfair, anti-competitive practices?

The Internal Revenue Service probably hasn't been aware that Mr. King and his outlaw family have been running a boat-building business, at least until now. Has he been filing all the appropriate tax forms, and making the appropriate payments, during the time the business has been in operation?

The Securities and Exchange Commission is sure to launch an investigation as well. Where did this upstart company get their seed money? Did they con some illiterate widows and orphans into financing this business that's only built one boat? It has all the makings of a scam, if you note they really don't have adequate facilities for mass production.

And of course, the Labor Relations Board will interview young Carter, to be sure he's adequately protected in his working environment. Did the manufacturer remember to provide him with steel-toed boots when he was assigned the task of moving lumber? Were face masks provided during cutting, sanding and varnishing operations? Was he ever required to lift more than 50 pounds, or required to stand on his feet for long periods because his exploitive manager failed to regularly announce the fifteen-minute breaks he's entitled to under the law?

That's assuming, of course, that young Carter will still be around to be exploited by his greedy capitalist dad. It's quite likely that Child Protective Services will beat the Labor Board to the punch. After all, young Carter's only seven years old, and there are laws against child labor in this most civilized of countries.

Oh well, maybe Carter and his dad will still get to go fishing -- on those Saturdays when he's allowed to visit the family in the company of a caseworker. Afterall, the state certainly can't tolerate a family who would put their seven-year-old son to work in an unsafe manufacturing plant for no wages, now can they?

King George would be proud. As Thomas Jefferson explained so eloquently in that now-outmoded document of grievances we still nostalgically call the Declaration of Independence, "He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance."

...and that's all I have to say about that.

1 comment:

  1. Shockingly (or not for those of us who have seen it), this happens at EVERY level. Suppose you wanted to fly customers (or give a ride to Stephen Hawking) in an airliner with the seats removed to put them in zero-gee for 30 seconds at at time, just like NASA does to train astronauts, or you wanted to have a prize for sending robots to the Moon, or send tourists into outer space? Can you imagine the US Government regulations you would have to go through? Peter Diamandis knows, he has gone through them all. Here he talks about how risk averse we (in the US) have become:
    This is almost a year old, and yet he's not deterred by all this (perhaps because he's got the money to do OUTSIDE the USA anything that the US Government won't allow him to do WITHIN the USA). He has a heavily promoted book coming out next week titled "Abundance" and it looks really interesting:
    The "sneak preview" first chapter has a few editing errors (!), but that seems more of a publisher problem than author problem. The book is somewhat along the lines of "The Singularity Is Near" and borrows some ideas from it such as Kurzweil's "Law of Accelerating Returns."

    In the video Diamandis talks of entrepreneurs starting new companies (even in spite of government regulations). I can imagine one or more of those who achieve riches comparable Bill Gates may someday start their own nation, and name it whatever they want. I can't wait for the UN to have a representative from the nation of "Galt's Gulch." :)