Coming Clean|On My Taxes

     My grandpa hailed from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. One of his Southern sayings was, “Robert, you got screwed and you didn’t get kissed.”
     I think of that often as this dreary presidential campaign slithers along, like an ancient, repulsive snake.
     The Democrats and the Republicans both screw us.
     But the Democrats throw us a kiss once in a while.
     The Republicans screw us rough.
     However, in the event that I will ever run for any office, anywhere, I am revealing my tax returns.
     Don’t vote for me, if you don’t wanna. But don’t accuse me of hiding anything.
     Thirty years ago or so I spent $20,000 – all the money I had – doing legal work in immigration prisons. I was too young and stupid to deduct it from my taxes. Sixteen years ago I sold a book about it, though, and this year I got royalties from it. Four dollars and 54 cents. I’m declaring it.
     That $44 on a roll of stamps? I really did spend it to send out stories and novels and queries. What I got in return was rejections, but mostly not even that. It’s like shooting money into outer space. But I get to deduct the stamps.
     I didn’t deduct the money I spent on doctors for myself, because I wasn’t sick enough. Maybe some day …
     I didn’t deduct the money I spent on my dog or my bicycle, though that money should be deductible because those are the main things that keep me from being sick enough to deduct the doctor bills.
     I really did contribute a tiny amount of money to some of the colleges that educated me. I deducted that.
     I didn’t contribute any money to political campaigns, though, because I can’t recall any political campaign that ever taught me a goddamn thing.
     I didn’t sell any stock, or get any capital gains, or overseas income from royalties, or an oil-depletion allowance, or inherit any money, or spend any money on business lunches, or depreciate anything, even though it seems sometimes that everything I have is depreciating. Except my bicycle and my dog. So I didn’t declare any of those things, or deduct them.
     I never got any tax credits for making pornography in Louisiana, so the Louisiana Legislature didn’t save any money from me when it voted against that tax credit this year.
     In case you’re wondering: No, the Louisiana Legislature couldn’t define pornography either. They just said you can’t get tax credits for it.
     I didn’t put any money into a blind trust, because I’m not blind and I don’t trust anyone. I didn’t make any money from carried interest, and if I did, I wouldn’t know it, because I don’t know what it is.
     That list I keep all year, of every pocketful of change I spend buying The New York Times, and every book? I really did buy them, and I’m deducting it. Those are business expenses.
     So, that’s about it for my taxes.
     I presume that most of you have tax returns pretty much like mine.
     I haven’t heard from you, because you never write, but I also presume that you and I together spend less time and energy whining about paying taxes than a single bajillionaire presidential candidate I could name, who’s spent his entire adult life getting big sloppy wet kisses from the IRS.
     I have just one question: What’s Mitt Romney’s stand on that pornography tax credit? Does he favor higher taxes on pornographers in Louisiana?
     It’s time for Romney to come clean with the American people. So to speak.

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