Everyone who pays federal income taxes in this country has a partner he calls Uncle Sam. As time goes on, more and more people are getting discontented with the partnership. Take my neighbor Brandon. I met him at the post office on April 17 as he was posting his 1040 Form.
He seemed disgusted. "I just sent Uncle Sam his share of my earnings," he said. "I'm telling you if I could get rid of the partnership tomorrow I would."
"Why?" I asked. "Isn't he a good partner?"
"Are you kidding? I went to see him the other day and said, 'Sam, I'm not saying you're cheating me, but do you mind if I look at the books?'
"He got very angry because I was questioning his management of our money. 'Don't you trust me?' he wanted to know. 'Of course, I trust you,' I told him, ' but a partner should be able to check the books. After all, you have a right to look at mine.'
"So he took out this big ledger and said, 'Here, I have nothing to hide.'
"I opened the books and there was one item for $7 billion missing from HEW. 'What's this?'
"'Fraud. Some is stealing $7 billion from Health Education and Welfare.'
"'That's a lot of money,' I said. So Sam replied. 'I can't watch everybody. Sometimes a few billion dollars slip between the cracks. It happen in any business.'
"I looked at another item. 'How come,' I asked, "these ships you ordered for the Navy now cost three times what we originally agreed to pay?"
"Sam looked innocent and then said, 'Oh yeah, I just remembered. We had to change all plans after we gave the order, and then we didn't figure on inflation and strikes. The shipbuilding company said it wouldn't continue the work unless we paid its extra costs. Brandon, we need those ships and they had me by the throat. I was going to tell you about it, but it slipped my mind.'"
Brandon continued, "So I kept turning the pages of the ledger. 'What's this item which says $10 billion for the Department of Energy?' Sam said, 'We need a Department of Energy. You agreed on it.'
"'I didn't know it would cost $10 billion,' I told Sam. He said, 'Well, you have to have nice offices, and you have to hire people to keep the paperwork straight, and you need computers. A new Energy Department doesn't cost peanuts. I swear I'm personally not making a dime on it. Some day you'll consider it a bargain.'
Brandon said, "Then I came across a billion-dollar deficit in the post office. 'Sam,' I said, 'you told me if we allowed the post office to become a semipublic corporation it would be in the black. Now the deficit is worse than ever and the service is twice as bad.' Sam said, 'So I spoke too fast. With the new rates, maybe next year . . .'
"Now," Brandon told me, "I was really getting angry and I said, I'm your partner and you keep spending my money like it was goingout of style. I know it takes a large investment to run a big government, but if I kept books like this you'd throw me in jail. You want me to account for every penny, and you have billions of dollars in this ledger that don't even add up.' Sam shrugget his shoulder. 'Bookeeping isn't my strong point. I'm much better posing for posters for the Army that say I WANT YOU!'"
I walked Brandon to his car and he finished his story. "So I finally said, 'Sam, I don't want to be partners with you. I'm better on my own.'"
"What did he say?" asked.
"He was crestfallen and said, 'But, Brandon, I couldn't go on without you. As it stands now even after I get your check, we'll still be $60 billion in *the hole. Just give me a few more years, and I promise you the books will balance down to the last nickel.'"
And you brought it?" I asked my friend. Brandon said, "What choice did I have? With my business, where am I going to find another partner?"