The IRS sent the church a threatening letter (certified mail), demanding seventy bucks. I spent a half hour or more on hold waiting to get a live person to deal with it. Turns out, it was paid, but the Treasurer miswrote the tax year as 2011, rather than 2010. All fixed now, except I'll never get that half hour of my life back.
We got a personal hassle from the IRS this year, claiming enormous extra taxes, which mostly disappeared when I sent them photocopies of the forms they already had in their possession. I did pay a hundred bucks on a beef about not reporting enough interest (how can you report interest, when banks don't give you 1099s on it?), and then they had the gall to charge me interest. The final bill for the interest on my hundred dollars of back taxes was $5 or so -- but they sent me TWO different letters, one to me and one to Deanne, with the same SSN, billing us for that $5. I photocopied it all and sent it back with my payment, pointing out that they had always dealt with us as joint filers, so I hoped that sending us duplicate bills wasn't an attempt to get us to pay this bill twice.
My overall impression is that the IRS must have hired a slew of new agents, or they've just given marching orders to the existing ones, to screw every last dime out of every taxpayer. That's how we're going to obey for Obama's trillion-dollar blowouts: hassling people for pennies.
The Indiana General Assembly is considering a bill that touches on illegal immigration, and the usual things are being said. Liberals who have no responsibility for anything decry it as awful, racist, what-have-you. Liberals who are in positions of public trust (like our bishop) say, Well, now, really, this isn't Indiana's job, so we shouldn't do anything. The result of both groups' advice is the same, to oppose any attempt to get a grip on the problem.
I'd like to say that the whole issue of illegal immigration has been mishandled -- by everyone, including conservatives. The issue is the rule of law. Do you want to live in a safe community where people voluntarily obey the law? This is not only about American citizens' fear of the crime levels associated with large numbers of people living in the shadows, where they won't report illegal activity (even perpetrated upon themselves) because they themselves are breaking the law; this is also about asking those who have come here what sort of society they would like to live in. Wouldn't you like to live in a place where you don't have to be afraid of both those who would prey upon you (the criminals) and those who are supposed to protect you (the police)?
The only way to build a community upon the foundation of law is to enforce the law. The more you enforce the law, the less heavy-handed you have to be, because most people will see its benefits and voluntarily obey the law. Then the police only have to deal with the minority who refuse to obey the law. That means, in the last analysis, sending people home who have entered illegally or outstayed their visas.
If you don't like that, then let me remind you that Congress has the power -- has always had the power -- to change the number of people to be admitted from any given country or region, or to alter the entry requirements across the board. That they have so far refused is either a) the will of the American people or b) a desire on our lawgivers' part to continue to hamper the enforcement of their own laws. The first should be respected; the second should result in a new Congress. Likewise, the President, as Chief Executive, is charged with enforcing the laws -- all the laws. Why are the immigration laws not enforced? If we decide that they are simply unenforceable, because the people at large will not obey them (think of the failure of Prohibition, e.g.), then ask Congress to change the laws -- but the President is not let off the hook while Congress dithers. Not enforcing the law is not an option. And if you think the law unjust, then the public spectacle of enforcing an unjust law will surely galvanize public opinion to see it changed (think Gandhi's or ML King's social justice provocations).
But no, a large number of people -- not just liberals, who like to pick and choose which laws they will obey and enforce (liberals are natural aristocrats), but even our government -- have CHOSEN not to enforce the laws as they exist. In the long run, this is a recipe for social disaster. If you want to see what that looks like, look at France, which has large, no-go areas (mostly inhabited by Muslims), where the police do not enforce the law. Britain is on the same train, though a station or two behind. Crime flourishes, riots intimidate the government, people are made into victims, the country grows weaker as a whole. It is a fine thing that people should escape the Third World to find opportunity in the West, but they must learn the ways of their new countries. Turning their new country into like what they left cheapens what they hoped to gain, as well as spelling disaster for those who already lived there.
So: If you don't like the laws, change them. But simply deciding that there are laws that we will not enforce leads to the worst of all worlds for everybody, including immigrants, documented or undocumented.
Next weekend's Youth Retreat is finally coming together. My co-leader, Dana, has agreed to take care of food; I'll take care of program. Arrangements are firming up otherwise, and I think this will be a success.
The theme is Christian Drama. We'll be working on translating Bible stories and Christian songs into sketches. The youth will be learning simple techniques of performance, as well as developing characters.
Ultimately, we're looking at puppet theater and other presentational things. And Easter Sunrise Service is, of course, on the horizon.