Gerald Vollmer-Heurer has a plan, and Dirk Adol hates it. "It is cheap, it is degrading, it is smelly," says Mr. Adol, who has a plan of his own. "What I propose is something clean, useful and solid." What is the subject of Dirk and Gerald's disagreement?
Send your answer by noon ET Thursday to email@example.com.
Tuesday's Question (No. 244)--"When IRS Eyes Are Smiling":
Fill in the blank on this tax tip from a Washington state IRS collection officer. "If you don't want to pay your taxes today all you have to do is say two magic words: _________ _________."
"Whale meat?"--Michael Fein
"Willie Nelson."--Erin H. Murphy, Kate Wing, and Justin Warner
"Mommy, please."--Bill Scheft
"I commute! (New York Metropolitan-area answer.)"--Andrew Silow-Carroll
"I'm sorry. (No, wait, that's how you get out of accidentally bombing somebody's embassy.)"--Zach Hooker
Click for more answers.
Randy's Tax Reform Wrap-Up
One criticism of our tax system is its use not merely to raise revenue but to encourage social policy, as in the deduction for mortgage interest or charitable contributions. I'd like to suggest that the tax system should go much, much farther down this road, particularly the sales tax. Under my plan, sales taxes would only be not eliminated on certain socially desirable purchases, but also good shoppers would receive an anti-tax, a bonus for their beneficent purchases.
For example, in New York City you're charged an 8 1/4 percent tax when you buy a book. I propose that when you buy a really good book--say, a Patrick O'Brian, he's marvelous!--you'd be paid a 10 percent bonus: Buy a $20 book; receive $2 from the city.
Buy a TV set and you should pay a tax: Your purchase will make you fat and stupid. Buy a TV set that operates only when you pedal a bicycle-powered generator, and you receive a bonus: Your purchase will make you thin and stupid.
Rent a copy of Seven Samurai, a fine movie, and you get the bonus. Rent Three Ninjas and you pay a tax, but you can check a box that allocates your money to hire a guy to beat the hell out of Jack Valenti.
The question, of course, is who decides which items are taxed and which earn the buyer a bonus. I do. By making these decisions a matter of narrow self-interest, my reform remains within the historical context of the present system, where tax rates are set to benefit the rich and powerful. My system would differ only in benefiting a different self. And what's good for me would no doubt be good for the country.
Bracket Creep Answer
"If you don't want to pay your taxes today all you have to do is say two magic words: installment agreement."
"You just say you want one and even if the terms you propose are ridiculous--like $10 a week when you owe tens of thousands--collection stops while your proposal goes up and down the chain of managers, until 90 days later you are told no. Then you need to say another magic word--harassment--and because of this new law, the collection process stops while your complaint gets reviewed."
This new law is Congress' way to bully the IRS into acting nicer. As a result, seizures of property in lieu of back taxes are down 98 percent this year. Other attempts to get people to pay what they owe are also way down. Many IRS officials say the drop stems from their fear of running afoul of the new niceness laws and getting fired.
Ananda Gupta's Cool American Bible Follow-Up
There is a board game based on the Battle of Armageddon.
- 2 to 3 players.
- Units represent Magog (Russia), the Kings of the East (China), the Western empires (USA and Europe), Israel, and the Arabs.
- The West gets a piece representing the antichrist.
- When you throw the die to resolve a battle and a 6 comes up, an "apocalyptic event"--Euphrates dries up, sky turns blood red interfering with air units, etc.--occurs.
The game is published by the Microgame Co-op, a small operation run by a Canadian named Kerry Anderson. Its raison d'être is to publish board games by unknown designers or on "niche" subjects (they have a board game depicting the struggle between Peru's government and the Sendero Luminoso). Check it out.
Headline Haiku Extra
Sestinas are for sissies. News Quiz participants are still encouraged to attempt this far more demanding verse form:
- Four lines, each with the same number of words; two, three, or four suggested, but it's poet's choice.
- The words in each line must originally appear adjacent to each other in a newspaper headline.
- The headlines must all come from a single edition of a single paper.
Two lyrical examples:
Through a Hot Metaphor
A Series of Missteps
The Boss's Pay Gets
Terms Hard To Swallow
Wall Street Journal, May 18, 1999
To Sell Drugs
The rich and the dead.