I Struggle With Paying the Self-Employment Tax

I sent almost a thousand dollars to the U.S. Treasury. This was a portion of the FICA tax (a.k.a. “payroll” or “social security” tax) tax that I owe for .

If my math is right, I got through without owing any federal income tax, but FICA is a different animal — much more difficult to evade.

It made me sick to write that check, but I did it anyway. I’m not prepared to evade this tax right now. I’ve got three paths I could take in the future with respect to FICA:

  1. I could decide I don’t mind paying it
  2. I could decide to evade it legally by not earning above-ground income
  3. I could decide to evade it illegally by not paying up

The first one is tempting. Because the FICA tax is nominally earmarked for the Social Security and Medicare programs, this makes it easy to say “well, that’s not so bad as bombing Iraqis and such, now, is it?”

Fact of the matter is, though, that this earmarking is mostly just an accounting gimmick. The money goes into one big pile and the politicians divide it up how they want. For a long time, FICA contributions exceeded Social Security and Medicare outlays, and so Congress spent the surplus on all of the other crap they like to spend our money on. Now that FICA is starting to fall behind, they’re scrambling for ways to avoid having to raid the other accounts to pay back what they stole.

So that excuse won’t wash, and I can’t think of any better ones.

If I want to get out of paying FICA, I could try to do it the legal way — by not earning any income. That would mean reducing my standard of living way below its currently modest below-the-income-tax-line level, since aside from income, I don’t have enough savings to last very long at my current burn rate. Living on less than a thousand dollars a year (what this approach would mean) would be a significant challenge.

An alternative to this would be to earn income under-the-table and keep the IRS in the dark about it. What they don’t know about they can’t tax. This means finding an income source that doesn’t go through easily-traceable channels (, by contrast, I did contract work for a company that isn’t about to play cute with the IRS by paying me under the table, and I sold merchandise on-line in a way that is probably open to inspection by any government agency that decides to care, so I reported everything).

I could also decide to do everything above-board as usual but then just refuse to pay up. This would move me into a more confrontational form of tax resistance. For it to be effective, I’d have to be careful about hiding assets. It would be no fun at all to do this and then have the IRS slurp the tax along with penalties and interest from my helpless bank account.

One Picket Line reader told me that he has a friend who has his own path out of my dilemma: he carefully adds up how much money he’s sent to the government over the year and then methodically sets out to do at least that much damage to government property! That certainly scores points for gumption.

What do you think? Are there options I haven’t noticed? Or better arguments for or against one of these options?

The U.S. military, unfazed by the loss of innocent life and the astounding record of failure in its attempts to kill targets by bombing civilian homes, is at it again, with predictable results:

The United States military said it dropped a 500-pound bomb on the wrong house outside the northern city of Mosul on Saturday, killing five people. The man who owned the house said the bomb killed 14 people, and an Associated Press photographer said seven of them were children.…

“The house was not the intended target for the airstrike. The intended target was another location nearby,” the military said in a statement.…

“Multi-National Force Iraq deeply regrets the loss of possibly innocent lives,” the statement said, adding that an investigation was underway.

You read that right: The military dropped a bomb on the wrong house, killing 14 people, half of them children (you may, of course, substitute the military’s own kill estimate if you don’t have any reason to question their motives or stunning reputation for accuracy and care in such matters), and then released a statement in which the victims are described as “possibly innocent lives.”

Newsweek reports that the U.S., having had such easily-ignorable murmurs of conscience about its torture strategy, is planning to move on to terrorism and death squads — what’s being called, in paperback adventure fiction font I assume, “The Salvador Option.”

Billmon, over at Whiskey Bar, reminds us what “The Salvador Option” was like in El Salvador.

Joe Bageant works up a good head of bile and spits it into the comfort zone:

The second hardest thing for liberals is to admit that they are comfortably insulated in the middle class and are not going to take any risks in the battle for America’s soul … not as long as they are still living on a good street, sending their kids to Montessori and getting their slice of the American quiche. Call it the politics of the comfort zone.…

I do not have to tell informed readers that the rest of the world has long been repulsed by this sort of American grotesquerie, this darkly provincial, arrogant American spectacle. But some of the world still has difficulty admitting to what it observes: that Americans, have become belligerent, mean, and downright dangerous to world security and stability. For example, my English cousins, perhaps in an effort to be nice, tell me, “We don’t hate you, but we hate your government.” They echo many Europeans when they do so. Which is disingenuous on their part because, despite our crooked elections, government here is still elected by at least a plurality, and in many cases a majority, of voters. So you cannot piss on the elected government without hitting the people who elected it. Especially considering that a majority strongly support any and all of our government’s wars.

Nevertheless, except for Israel perhaps, the world wants to hate America. Common sense tells them they should — hell, we’re out of control. But unlike Americans, Europeans seem to have a difficult time letting themselves write off hundreds of millions of other people in one fell swoop. So they tell themselves that our morally corrupt administration is to blame for it all. BLOOOONNNK! Sorry folks, but no matter how you skin this woolybooger, our clown prince was elected with about half the popular vote, and he retains the open support of at least half the public. So if you hate Bush’s policies, then you hate the 140 million Americans who continue to solidly back his policies. At the very least, you must hate about half of us. Hell, we hate ’em too. Quit feeling so bad and admit that Americans have willingly elected a murderous gang of fascist pissbrains. Now doesn’t that feel better?

Zeynep Toufe at Under the Same Sun notices something about that “freedom” coming to Iraq:

This one is from the L.A. Times:

At five heavily guarded entry points to the city [Fallujah], military interrogators are selectively asking returning residents whether they have heard of the upcoming election and, if so, which, if any, candidates they support.

First a foreign occupying army levels your city. Then they tell you that you can’t be in your own hometown without ID cards issued by them and that there will be fingerprinting and retina scans. Then they claim it’s so that there can be “elections” free of coercion. Then their military interrogators question you on your vote as you try to return to what’s left of your house.