Today is Tax Day, the deadline for you to turn in your federal Income Tax statements. Or for some this is the first in series of deadlines where you can ask for an extension...
If you filed your taxes early then congratulations. And if you are one of the millions of Americans who have procrastinated to this point and are still hurriedly gathering receipts and scribbling away on forms there is a bright side. You might be one of the many man-on-the-street interviews as you stand in line at the post office that local television reporters use to lazily fill up a few minutes of airtime today.
For the sake of humor and nostalgia here is a 1942 propaganda film put out by Walt Disney Studios called "The Spirit of 43" about the subject.
As an amateur historian it is kind of fun to watch old films. They serve as a time capsule for pop culture reflecting the attitudes of the times. A couple of things went through my mind after watching this particular short.
First off, Hollywood and Disney would never put out a patriotic piece like this today. Being pro-American and displaying just a bit of jingoism isn't cool. Real artists don't wave the flag. Or at least they haven't since the late-1960s.
Yes this cartoon is delightfully cheesy and a bit over-the-top but is the altruistic notion that you should sacrifice something of yourself in order to protect the freedom of speech - and to worship - a bad morality tale?
If situations were reversed one has the hunch that you would have filmmakers today blaming the United States for the December 7 attacks saying the country deserved it for having troops on foreign soil in the Philippines. It was wrong for politicians to levy a crippling embargo against the Empire of Japan. There should be no blood spilled for oil (The main war aim for Japan in World War II was to secure the oil fields of Dutch Indonesia). Finally what is the United States doing diverting 90 percent of its war effort to Europe against Germany when it was aircraft from the Japanese Imperial Navy that sunk seven American battleships at Pearl Harbor?
The other thought was to marvel at the line delivered a minute into the film.
"This year - thanks to Hitler and Hirohito - taxes are higher than ever before".
So with 15 million men and women in uniform and after building the Manhattan Project, thousands of warships, bombers, fighter planes, tanks, jeeps and millions of tons of ammunition and supplies; with an entire nation on a war footing fighting all of Nazi-occupied Europe and Japan in the Pacific and loaning billions of dollars worth of material to the British Empire and the Soviet Union, the highest percentage of taxes levied on the American people was one-fifth of the national GDP.
In 1999 and 1998 it was 20 percent. In 2003 and 2004 those figures had dropped to 16.5 and 16.3 percent. And last year in 2007 they crept back to 18.8 percent. (All these numbers - if one reads the figures correctly - do include the deficit)
What is Congress and the federal government spending our money on? Last year's budget was around $2.9 trillion. In 2009 the number is projected to be $3.1 trillion. In 2001 it was $2 trillion.