So, what gives, Jason Chaffetz?
Did the Secret Service finally clean up its act and name an impenetrable and un-jumpable White House fence after you?
Did you land a job with a cellphone company that offers free health insurance with each two-year contract?
Or, as I read again and again on social media, did the angry opposition, the fundraising efforts of a Democratic opponent or the figurative target on your back become too burdensome?
Was it no longer fun to head the House Oversight Committee without a Democrat in the White House to oversee? Did someone have dirt on you we never will see?
Or are you hiding some chronic illness or debilitating problem? Your Facebook post was careful to describe yourself as healthy, but you are a politician, after all.
These and other mostly improbable speculations choked the Wasatch Front this week. The reason is simple. In an age when power — unvarnished and unmarred by compromises with ideological enemies — seems life’s ultimate goal, it’s hard for Americans to wrap their minds around the thought of walking away from it all.
Who does that?
Not Don Young, the Alaska Republican who won his seat in a special election in 1973 and has hung on tight ever since. Not Jon Conyers, the Michigan Democrat elected in 1965. Not, apparently, Orrin Hatch, who seems likely to run again for a Senate seat he first won in 1976.
It’s harder, still, to accept reasons that sound so simple. Wanting to spend more time with the family seems so cliché.
Then again, how many of us would like the ability to quit a job that keeps us from our own children? Any sales people or truck drivers wish to respond?
Of course only Jason Chaffetz knows what really went on in Jason Chaffetz’ mind when he announced this week that he is not running for re-election in ’18, leaving the House after five short terms.
For the rest of us, while it may seem naïve in a cynical age, we should take him at his word.
After all, conservatives are supposed to believe Congress is a noble, but limited, calling, a place inhabited by citizen legislators who seek careers elsewhere. Chaffetz often said he didn’t intend to make a career out of Congress. Sure, he left us all hanging a bit with his refusal to rule out a future political career, but he kept his word.
Or maybe he simply realized this Republican Congress wasn’t going to get anything accomplished with this Republican president, which brings me to
Death and taxes: The IRS made its demands on us last Tuesday. Not long after, the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan research group in Washington, published its annual “tax freedom day” report. This is the formula that calculates how long you would have to work to pay your entire yearly federal, state and local tax bill if every penny you earn, beginning Jan. 1, went for that purpose.
This year’s freedom day is April 23; Utah’s is April 21.
The good news is Utah’s taxes are in the middle of the pack nationally, and a recent Utah Foundation report found the local burden is the lowest it’s been in a couple of decades.
The bad news nationally is that Washington still is on a collision course with disaster.
A few yeas ago, Republicans were all over this. We had fiscal cliffs, sequestration and other more or less invented crises designed to use a long-term problem for short-term political gain.
Now Republicans are in power, and you seldom hear talk like that. President Trump’s proposed budget would cut $54 billion across a wide swath of programs, but it wouldn’t touch the big things — long-term growth for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — although he has hinted at ways to change how those programs are funded.
The Tax Foundation calculates Americans will spend $5.1 trillion on taxes this year, compared with only a bit more than $4 trillion on housing, clothing and food combined.
Death and taxes may be inevitable, but at least death doesn’t constantly demand you make donations.