I had to deal with a state government today in my other life (the one in which I get paid to be an employee.) I hate dealing with governments, for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the employees don’t care. I can understand why they don’t (they don’t have the authority to do anything anyway), but many of them have had to deal with justifiably irate people for so long, while still having uncommonly good (in today’s world) job security (a customer focus is severely lacking), that they are downright rude, which makes the experience that much more detestable.

But the thing that I hate more than dealing with the uncaring, unempowered bureaucracy is the attitude that created it. The United States prides itself on being the bastion of capitalism, the place where you can make it big by hard work and pursuing the American Dream. Yet, how much in taxes do we have to pay to support all the people that are making sure we are paying our taxes? State governments are often worse than federal governments (in particular, I have found it hard to deal with Ohio, California and Texas, as a general rule) because they have specific, constantly changing laws that they expect you to stay informed on and current with, even if you don’t have offices in their state, and it gets worse with each passing year.

Last year I had to fight with the state of Texas because one of their auditors saw a company car in Houston and thought we needed to be paying district and school taxes for that district (I don’t know how many times I explained to numerous people that we do not have, nor had we ever had, a car registered in Houston, and the one that had been in Dallas had been moved a year prior to their tax.) The standard response was “well, why didn’t you file form xxx to inform us that your car was no longer in Houston? – It’s your responsibility to make sure we know when you move your car so we stop charging you tax.” In the meantime, they were charging us late fees and threatening to send our account to collections, even though several employees understood why we hadn’t paid. They all counseled us to just pay the tax and file a form explaining that we had moved the car, since we would be liable for late fees even if they decided we didn’t owe the tax! No one could do anything without the proper form, filed and processed by them. At the same time, they graciously informed me that they were so overwhelmed with paperwork that it would probably take about three months to process the form, and then it would be up to the official’s discretion as to whether he would still charge us the tax and the late fees. What a joke!