Beaten by the system

FI-Joe-PisaniBack in the 60s, we were obsessed with getting a high number in the draft lottery. We were obsessed with getting good tickets to the Dylan concert. And most of all, we were obsessed with beating “the system.”

If you could beat the system, you were a winner because everywhere you turned the system tied you down. We’re talking the Selective Service System, the Johnson administration, the Nixon administration, corporate America, and the Madison Avenue advertising machine. Just like today.

But as much as I’ve tried to beat the system for most of my life, by now it has become clear that the system has beaten me. To a pulp. And it’s still beating me, in big ways and in small.

I reached that discouraging conclusion recently after I filled my tank with gas on the Post Road and realized the system had pummeled me again, when I drove a mile farther down and saw another station owned by the same company, where gas was six cents a gallon cheaper. How is that possible? Should I also mention that the price of gas jumped 20 cents in two weeks because of some new and creative price-gouging scheme?

The system 1, me, 0.

Even worse, you know the system is beating you when everything from kids clothes to hospitals gets taxed.

When I got my paycheck a few weeks ago, I gasped because the federal government took another chunk out and my wife was complaining that the price of groceries keeps going up week after week. Pretty soon, milk will cost more than gasoline. Oh, and my Metro-North train ticket went up, too.

The coup de grâce was getting the assessment on our home and discovering it’s been de-valued by thousands of dollars, for which I thank the financial services industry and their mortgage-backed, greed-inspired securities that led to the economic collapse and the loss of billions in retirement savings. Those guys, you see, have been the ones that have beating the system for years.

People are constantly complaining because they can’t pay their bills, their retirement money is gone, they can’t find work, and their taxes keep going up. To beat the system, some friends have left for places like Florida and New Hampshire … at least the ones who still have jobs, that is.

According to news reports, the rich and famous are considering desperate measures to beat the system. Golfer Phil Mickelson says California taxes are battering him, and boxer Manny Pacquiao refuses to fight in Vegas anymore because the taxes will KO him.

Others are renouncing their citizenship and leaving for safer, cheaper shores. Tina Turner said “arrivederci” to America and became a Swiss citizen. Meanwhile, the government expects that the number of citizens who defect to avoid taxes will double in 2013, with about 155 a week giving up their passports. They’re headed to places like the Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, Antigua, Singapore, and Australia.

In Europe, France’s taxes are so onerous that Gérard Depardieu, that grubby national icon, renounced his citizenship and took up with Vladimir Putin in Russia. But you have to be careful when you try to beat the system in Russia because you could end up in Siberia, which for all its flaws has a very reasonable tax rate and affordable gas, I’ve been told.

 

Joe Pisani may be reached at [email protected]

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