The Cold War and the Income Tax: A Protest

The Cold War and the Income Tax: A Protest

Edmund Wilson

Language: English

Pages: 123

ISBN: 0374526680

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


my improved pdf of Gimley's upload, now single page, white background, OCR'd, bookmarked

from his announcement:

In his polemic about cold war policy and taxation in the 1950s, Edmund Wilson begins rather naively, “Between the year 1946 and the year 1955, I did not file any income tax returns” … “I thought that this obligation could always be attended to later. I had no idea at that time of how heavy our taxation had become or of the severity of the penalties exacted for not filing tax returns.” Wilson then chronicles his struggles with a labyrinthine, Kafkaesque Internal Revenue Service bureaucracy, which Wilson compares to the Soviet Union. Being Wilson, he investigates the history of the income tax in the United States, and explores how the assumptions made by the IRS about how and when people earn income map poorly to the actual way a literary man like Wilson makes a living. He dives into the tax code and discovers that “[t]he question of what ought to be taxed and how much and which deductions ought to be allowed has reached a point of fine-spun complexity that — working in terms of a different set of values — recalls the far-fetched distinctions of medieval theology.” And here what starts out looking like a literary man’s attempt to squeeze some wry observations out of an unfortunate and naïve encounter with the government at its bureaucratic best starts to turn. Wilson takes a long, hard look at the federal government’s budget and notices that huge hunks of it go to pay for wars past, present ,and future and (this is 1963, remember) the program to put a man on the moon. After a brief detour to contrast the lunar project with a project he thinks underfunded and more valuable — to publish collected editions of some of America’s finest authors — he dives a little deeper into the military budget. Wilson's recommendation of a collected editions was also explored in his essay "The Fruits of the MLA," and itself reached fruition with the creation of the Library of America decades later.

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