by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
“Jojo, how’s it feel openin’ up this first check, man?” Dad asks from the passenger’s seat of the parked car, his voice brimming with expectation. “Oh, c’mon, Papa,” Jojo exclaims with a beaming smile, “let me just open it up.”
The 18-year-old holds his first paycheck proudly toward the camera. Then, in the envelope equivalent of spiking a football, he drops the check’s paper casing to the floor with a flair of a seasoned magician. He unfolds the document, reads the figures, and then, slowly but surely, everything changes.
Jojo’s grin flattens, then hardens into a visible downturned frown. His eyes dart back and forth past the figures on the paper. He doesn’t believe what he’s seeing. “Why your face like that, Jojo?” Father asks, knowing full-well what just happened. “We’re you expectin’ more?”
Dad and the two other guys in the car start to laugh. Jojo, however, isn’t amused. Without saying a word, he opens the door. “They took out taxes, Jo,” says one of the young men, “welcome to the world.” With that, Jojo exits the car.
“Jojo, where you goin’?” Asks Dad. But his son can’t hear him. He’s already outside of the vehicle, pacing in disbelief.
As the initial shock quickly transforms into indignation, Jojo gets back into the car. “They just finessed me!” He proclaims to his comrades. “Aaauugh. Noooo.” The man in the driver’s seat takes the check from Jojo and tries to clarify the situation. “Okay,” he explains, “so they took out employee Medicare, and they took out your Social Security employment.” “But I got my Social Security number!” Jojo protests. It hasn’t sunk in.
“No, you always have to pay taxes…” the driver responds, “you have to pay taxes every time you get paid.”