Back To Vietnam

Daniel S. Perrin
Last Modified: November 1, 2001

Copyright © 2000, Daniel S. Perrin

He held very little respect for officers or authority in general -- any authority. He was kind of a Rodney Dangerfield, in reverse, not giving anyone "no respect."


We called him Korn, short for Kornachek. He hated to be called "Corny," as much as the name fit him. I served with him in Vietnam back in the late 1960s. He had a face like a caricature, and it was as unforgettable as he was.

What I remember most about him was his standard reply should anyone express concern that their actions might bring retribution from the authorities whom he held in contempt: He would ask rhetorically, somewhat contemptuously, "What are they going to do, send us to Vietnam?" There was never an answer for that question. We were already in Vietnam, had already received the worst punishment they could bestow.

He was a good influence on all of us over there, though the officers would not have agreed. He was from Hoboken, New Jersey, which is not far from New York City. When I had a few occasions to take public transportation up that way some years ago, I rehearsed my greeting in case I would happen to run into him during one of my commutes: I would extend an outstretched arm and finger right at him, then in a loudenough voice for all in the subway car or train to hear, exclaim: "We're going to send you BACK TO VIETNAM!"

I'm sure he would have liked that. I could imagine his high-pitched, squealing laughter as if he was with me right then and there. Those days are long since gone, but he still has influence over me now, thirty years later.

I recently had a run-in with the devil, cancer and I was obliged to face its triumvirate cure: radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery. Some cure. The alternative is death, so I had to suffer the cures. You don't undergo cancer treatment; you suffer it. There is no other way to describe it. I won't bore you with its numerous and terrible side effects.

Somehow, I have survived all of that, despite the best efforts of the managed care system to kill me without kindness. I have only the hospital caregivers to thank. They can and do overcome most of the obstacles thrown at them by government and managed care.Especially the nurses.

Now, they don't care much about the system. In that way the nurses are like him, like Korn. They have very little respect for authority. Did you ever notice how many of them smoke? This is their way of thumbing their noses at the system, the administrators, the HMOs, and anyone who gets in the way of their caring for their patients, even some of the doctors. Korn made a science of thumbing his nose at authority. The thing was that authority nearly always deserved it.

Managed care did not realize that I would meet with open arms their efforts to throw me out of the hospital less than a week after major surgery. Those who talked to me about going home seemed to expect some argument, some disagreement. It was not forthcoming. I had barely enough strength to walk to the bathroom. The simple act of shaving required a monumental physical and mental effort. Of course, anyone who has spent any length of time in a hospital under circumstances similar to mine can tell you: They can't release you soonenough.

I want to make it clear, though, that my desire to be released is in no way a reflection on the caregivers, but rather on the system. The health care system is broken; the government broke it, but can't fix it, nor can managed care itself. The hospital administrators will have to ask the nurses, doctors, patients, managed care, how they would go about fixing it. Only if their suggestions are implemented, will we(not government and not managed care) be able to take a stab at fixing it.

I have been too weak to do much work the last several months because of that nasty triumvirate I mentioned earlier. I was fortunate to have medical coverage, though I can't collect long term disability because I was able to work, a few short hours here and there, over the course of my treatments. Meanwhile, my business has been going in the exact reverse direction of the booming economy. I am self-employed and have fallen behind in my paperwork (required by the government) and in paying a few bills.

I just got a letter the other day from the phone company telling me my business phone would be disconnected if I didn't pay $200 by the very next day. Thanks for the more-than-adequate notice. The state of Pennsylvania wants $630 for some business tax and threatened to put a lien on my company (which has a negative net worth) should I not be able to come up with the money. These developments would normally rile and upset me, but I think back to my friend, Korn, and the pain and discomfort disappear. Korn left me quite a heritage. He taught me how to handle such setbacks.

In any case, the direction of my income versus expenses shows me drifting toward bankruptcy. I now need to build my business back upnearly from scratch, to make up for the time I spent away from it, and it will be quite a few months before I am fully up to it. I'm still very weak,but I'm getting stronger every day. I used to be able to jump on my bike and pedal fifteen miles, hardly breaking a sweat. It will be a longtime before I can do that. In other words, it will be a long time before I am fully recovered.

One of the main reasons for the unfortunate drift of my business toward insolvency is the eternal tax bills thrown at it --thrown at all Individuals--, sole-proprietors, corporations, partnerships etc.--by the federal, state, and local governments. Every year at tax time, I need to take money out of my ever-shrinking IRA, which I had built up as an employee at the last few places I worked, to meet those many taxobligations.

Imagine, you finally cash in on the free enterprise system and pull in about $14,000 (gross). After you subtract your expenses, you are left with a "profit" of say $10,000. The IRS wants $1500 (about 15%) for your Social Security. Like some wise American once said, I work for the IRS on a commission basis.

Believe me, for someone making $14,000, $1,500 is a ton of money. So I feel quite despondent when I realize I must take the $1500 out of my IRA. There is no other place to get it, unless I had somehow been able to free up, or procure more available credit on my credit cards and go further into debt. There is more to it. They assess me a 10% penalty on the $1500 for early withdrawal. The reason for the penalty is that I was supposed to have foreseen what was going to happen to me, and the taxes I would owe, so I should not have contributed any money into my IRA 10 or so years ago. So the 10% penalty on top of the $1500 makes it $1650. Can I take a tax deduction for the crystal ball I need to predict these kinds of things?

In short, I must take $1650 from my IRA at a financially solvent institution and hand it over to the Social Security system, which is not only on its way to insolvency, but run by politicians. Talk about a worst-case scenario. They are not going to invest my money in a bank, or anything constructive, but rather they are going to spend it, most assuredly on themselves, reasoning that they are the most deserving.

I can take comfort in the fact that should the government decide to audit me, they will be just as confused as I am about which figures andamounts go on which forms, and even which forms should be filled out, even how much I owe.

I have been audited before. I already know the outcome. What it comes down to is that they are going to collect money from me one way or another. There is nothing I can do to avoid it. They will find some law that will support their position. There is no reason to appeal the decision. The judicial system is virtually certain to support them, as the judges would be jeopardizing their own paychecks if they withheld their legal support.

They are not through with me yet. I may still have to pay regular Federal income tax on the $10,000, if I am not able to drum up enough personal deductions. Of course, I will also need to pay state and local wage taxes and fill out those various tax returns and forms. My federal, state, and local tax forms count up to about thirty pages. I just wish I could afford to pay someone to fill them out for me. I'd settle for having enough energy to do it myself. Then there is the state sales tax, which I am required to collect from my customers and turn over to the government without receiving compensation for the added work. When you are forced to work for someone else's benefit, it is known as slavery, which was outlawed by the 13th amendment almost 150 years ago:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States...

Says it all doesn't it? Not only that, if I don't collect it, I am responsible for paying it! Simply put, if you do not produce enough cotton for the overseer, you have to pay him for your lack of productivity.

Now I continue to make payments of $500 per month to reduce my debt which has grown to $20,000 because of various loans and credit card debt I took on, at least half of it to pay taxes. We hear how the stock market increases wealth exponentially if you can count on a return of just 10%. The tax authorities are on to this game. That is why they charge usurious interest rates of up to 22% for overdue taxes and unpaid balances. If you invest your money at 22%, you are sure to be a trillionaire in a few short years.

But at some point I may not be able to make the credit card payments, the tax payments, or both. Even now, I am technically in a state of both business and personal bankruptcy since my liabilities exceed my assets by several thousand dollars.

Even now, an IRS agent or state tax agent reading this essay is sure to jot down my name and recommend an audit as punishment for my criticism. That is okay. I have a new attitude. Now you'll understand why I told you about Korn. He gave me the idea. Let's suppose that I can no longer continue to make those monthly payments. I will have the last laugh. What are they going to do if I can't pay? Give me cancer? Or maybe send me BACK TO VIETNAM?

Post Script

My energy has returned since the first few drafts of this short article, and my business is back to the level it was before the surgery.

The various federal, state, and local governments have been busy as beavers mailing me more tax forms so I can subsidize their do-good projects this year.

One of my life-long goals has become to die penniless-owing the government hundreds of thousands of dollars. The amount I would owe them under the ideal situation would be all the taxes they have collected from me, plus 22% interest, compounded daily.