Timothy Norris of Wichita, Kansas attempted to pay his $600 property tax bill in one dollar bills that were folded so tightly that it took personnel six minutes to unfold each of them. Rather than spend approximately two and a half days of man-hours unfolding the bills, the tax agency requested that Mr. Norris depart the premises. When he refused, the police were summoned. Norris resisted arrest and was charged with criminal trespass and resisting arrest. (Story here.)
Mr. Norris claims that most of the bills were one-dollar bills that were banded together, along with 150 origami-folded bills and $250 worth of unfolded $5, $10, and $20 bills. (The tax bill was $497.17.) Norris says,
“They didn’t make it convenient for me whenever they raised the taxes every year,” he said. “Why should I make it convenient for them?”
After unfolding $25-worth of money, Norris said he changed his mind and took the money back once the clerk started ripping and tearing the bills to get them flat. This also prompted him to abandon his plan, and he said he had no intention of using the folded money when he returned Jan. 28.
However, Norris said he also had to pay for a vehicle registration tag that day, costing him an extra $180 he did not expect. Because of this, he was left with only $450 for his property bill in unfolded money, forcing him to pull $50 out from the 150 folded one-dollar-bills he still had with him.
Sheriff David Duke claims that there was far more than $50 in folded bills, since it took his officers 2.5 hours to unfold them. The deputies had to unfold the bills because a person’s possessions are inventoried at the time of arrest.
Some of the confusion is likely between what Duke had on him at the time (i.e. $150 in origami-folded bills) and what he intended to pay with (i.e. many of the unfolded bills). I admire the man’s initiative and persistence, but can see how government officials would find such stunts a bit boring after a while. Perhaps Wichita and other municipalities ought to offer some sort of ‘discount’ to those who pay in convenient form, which is really just a surcharge on those who pay in pennies, folded bills, etc.
In the Daily Mail UK, Jessica Szalacinski discusses her experiences as a surrogate mother. She enjoyed bearing children for gay couples who could not do so, but loathed the discussions she had with a very rich, very famous couple who wanted a hot egg donor, picked the sex of the child, and ordered her to have an abortion if more than one embryo was successfully implanted in her womb. (Story here.)
The sensationalism of the rich-and-famous eugenicists aside, even ‘ideal’ surrogacy arrangements are morally problematic. Of Ms Szalacinski’s pregnancy and delivery, the Daily Mail writes, “In the delivery room, the baby was whisked away as quickly as possible, before any ‘biological urge’ could present itself.”
Maybe I’m some backwater dolt, but here’s my rule of thumb for when a newfangled medical procedure is ethical and when it crosses the line: if you are treating a mother’s love for the child she carried in her womb as a problem, you have gone seriously astray in life. This love is integral to the survival of the human race and is also a cornerstone of what makes us human, yet any surrogacy arrangement demands that this love, this desire to treasure and protect a newborn baby, be treated as a ‘biological urge’ that is best ignored and suppressed.
In April of 2010, Jonathan Gruber, one of the architects of ObamaCare and an adviser to the Obama Administration, suggested that we tax people based on their weight. (Full essay here.) The theory is that fat people spend more in health care dollars, so we can tax to “modify behavior and raise revenue.”
If people who smoke, drink, don’t work out, or are professional bungee jumpers have higher health care costs than everyone else, then I have no problem with a private insurance company raising their rates. We do this for auto and homeowner’s insurance all the time: you pay more if you speed, drive drunk, or live in a place that gets hit by hurricanes. A private insurance company that charges people too much for various “sins” will lose those customers; an insurance company that charges too little will lose money. The force of the free market will push companies to get the most accurate risk assessment possible, and those companies would be just as happy with people quitting smoking and paying less as they would with smokers paying a penalty to cover their additional costs.
None of this is true about government sin taxes. Aside from the creepy and coercive nature of the government attempting to regulate our lives through financial penalties, extorted from us with the threat of jail if we do not comply, the government will tend to rely on increased ‘sin’ revenue. The money from cigarettes or adipose that pays for schools will no longer be there if people quit smoking or slim down. The government also has an incentive to increase this tax to the point just before political backlash: there is no downward pressure from competing governments that are ready to charge an amount that is more tailored to the expenses incurred from such weight.
Economics of sin taxes and insurance premiums aside, this is also problematic because weight is not what causes people to incur excess health care costs: it is fat, lack of physical fitness, high blood pressure, low muscle mass, and a host of other things. Most likely, the government will simply calculate our BMIs and tax us, rather than attempt the fine-tuned calculation of taxing people whose body composition puts them at a higher risk for health problems. It also highlights one of the many problems with socialised medicine: once you are forced to pay for some stranger’s health care, you have every right and incentive to stick your nose in that stranger’s business and dictate how his life ought to be run. It’s an ugly business, served up to us in the name of compassion.