COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | ROGER BROWN

The serious game of Geeks vs. Geezers

To accept what follows, it is helpful to agree with two premises as incontrovertible fact: The first is that no one understands the entirety of all the tax laws affecting all the citizens of this country; the other is that many people do not understand computers and believe they are magic.

In a blog post of March 24 titled “Predatory State of California,” former Director of the Office of Management and Budget, David Stockman describes the quaint practice our fair state has of reaching across state lines to extract taxes, penalties and interest from bank accounts of former residents who now live elsewhere.

These taxes are levied and collected without notice on pensioners receiving retirement income from companies domiciled in California under the expansive doctrine “If you earned it here you owe taxes here for life no matter where you are now.”

Stockman also describes how sycophant banks profit by charging their customers “service charges” for sending their customers’ money to Sacramento without their consent.

This goes beyond guilty until proven innocent, which we have come to know and love from taxing authorities. This is taxation without presentation of a bill. It is sentencing before being charged.

My first reaction was “Great, tax refugees helping the rest of us, who for whatever reason cannot leave, to support our welfare state.”

This led to closer scrutiny. Ignoring the due process constitutional issues, which the state routinely does, one wonders whether there is a class action lawsuit here. Although, woe be unto he who volunteers as lead plaintiff for he shall live in the Land of Audit for the rest of his days.

What we have uncovered is a form of algorithmic taxation. Just as computers mine social media for your personal information in order to target advertising to you, whiz kids who work for the government do the same, searching for vulnerable tax targets.

Those with the biggest electronic bull’s eye painted on their backs are older, retired, have money and do not understand computers. Internet scammers can zing a few million people for less than $100 and stay under the enforcement radar.

The same applies at the government level. The Geeks vs. Geezers game pits youngsters adroit with keyboards against people who are ill-equipped to fight back over small amounts that must be retrieved from a foreign state. Those small amounts add up.

Welcome to intergenerational warfare. Seniors passed a lot of laws granting themselves security, free health care, prescription drugs and other entitlements. These are all expected to be paid for by the younger generation.

It’s poetic. The younger generation developed computers that can reach as far as the Internet can see to recover the money. Youth must be served.

The difficulty, among many, is the iterative nature of this behavior over time. Youngsters will someday be old. Attempts to pick the pockets of each successive generation have consequences. Money moves at ever increasing velocity but nothing is ever accomplished or produced.

The cycle continues as government becomes nothing but a massive check-writing machine. No more silly tasks like fixing potholes or defending the country; managing increasingly complex transfer schemes will dominate all of society. No time or money is left for anything else.

Eventually, we must break the cycle and, of course, I have the answer. Make life itself an algorithm. You enter the world. Your first breath is free. But before you can take a second one, you need a password.

To get that, you must click the “I Agree” button to continue. You are sort of in a hurry, but the terms of service are short: You don’t take money from anyone without giving them value in return. It does not matter if you have a gun or a voting booth or a computer. Stealing is wrong. Failing to comply means revocation of the password. It’s a simple plan.

Until then, the old saying that children should be seen and not heard has a new dimension. Now, unseen and needing no more than 140 characters, they have access to your bank account.

You should have thought of that.


Brown is an investor and freelance writer in Alpine.

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