José Can Say So

I’m Broke and It’s the Government’s Fault

By José Canseco

You might’ve heard that last week I filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The government has drained my bank accounts, and the way they hit you with penalties and interest makes it almost impossible to pay anything back. And it’s my duty to warn you: It can happen to anyone.

Things spiraled out of control for me due to a combination of being hit with judgments and liens and taxes and my income being cut short because my wages were garnished. When you owe the government—whether it be state or federal—they are relentless when it comes to getting their money back. They institute incredible penalties and interest that almost makes it seem like they want to enslave you.

Recovering from something like that is very difficult. It’s like swimming in the ocean. Once you get out past 100 yards, it looks like 200 yards and the farther you swim the harder it is to get back to shore; you’re just swimming around forever and you can never reach the other side. The vastness just keeps expanding and expanding and expanding, by which I mean penalties and interest. Obviously, I’ve got issues from the past, but it just becomes so overwhelming that you’re not even swimming anymore. You’re just underwater, sipping air—sipping life even—through a little straw that’s sticking through the surface. It’s the most frustrating, unnatural thing I’ve ever had to go through—constantly being suffocated, choked out, and wondering if I could survive until the next day to make more payments on whatever I could.

For the last five or six or seven years I’ve just been trying to, well… live. I’ve been evicted from homes, lived in friends’ converted garages, and bounced from house to house. Putting money into my account became a terrifying activity because there was a good chance the government would immediately confiscate it. Things got to the point where even my daughter Josie—her last name is Canseco—was drained one time. I think she said that they returned it, but anything relating to the Canseco last name became a nightmare. Let me tell you from first-hand experience, the IRS are a bunch of thirsty piranhas. They bled me dry.  

The issue is very simple: If you’ve got friends and family, the more money you make the more you spend on them. So let’s say you spend half your money on them and the rest on yourself and the cost of living. It may so happen that during all of that you forget to pay your taxes. And then all of a sudden penalties and interest start to add up, and you’re in a pool of quicksand from which you cannot escape.

Sure, they put you on a payment schedule, but you’re still accruing penalties and interest and can’t ever pay anything off the principal. It’s just amazing the way the system is set up.  

I saw that movie Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and at the very end President Lincoln makes a statement that kind of hit me hard. He says something like: “Government for the people and of the people and from the people.” And that’s not what our government’s about. That’s crazy talk. I understand that he’s referring to a time when our government was smaller, but now it’s so large. Do you want to know the most ironic, messed-up part about this whole thing? No matter how many taxes the government gets from the public, we’ll still be in debt forever.

To me, it doesn’t make any sense: If the government prints its own money, why are we in debt? Or is it a psychological theory they’re using to control the public, to say, “Pay your taxes because we’re in debt and you’ll help clear the debt. And the reason why we’re in debt is nobody pays their taxes.” The whole thing is strange; it’s psychological. If everyone in the United States of America decided to not pay taxes for the next five years, the government couldn’t do one single thing about it. They certainly couldn’t imprison us all at the same time, because our jail system and our prison system are overcrowded and—guess what—FUNDED BY TAXES!!!

Realistically, they couldn’t do one single thing about it if we all said, “Nope, you’re not getting taxes this year,” and the saddest part is that the deficit would still be the same. But maybe, if this happened, the government would just downsize and we’d stop giving money to individuals who don’t want to work and expect handouts. The other insane thing is that people say, “OK, I bought a house. It cost me half a million bucks. I paid for it with cash.” Do you realize that you don’t own the house because you don’t own the land that the house is sitting on top of? You can technically own that property, but if you don’t pay taxes the government comes and takes your property! So, really, you don’t own anything. That’s just sad.

For me, it’s real simple: The government controls you psychologically as religion controls you psychologically. “In God we trust” also means “In government we trust.” Think about that for a minute and get back to me. 

@JoseCanseco

Previously - Control the People, Not the Guns

More money advice from VICE? Check these out:

The VICE Guide to Adulthood

Repair Your Credit by Being a Dick

Debt Ceilings, Debt Feelings

Comments