Column Date 2011-03-02


The news is not good from Bucharest.


In a desperate attempt to close a huge budget deficit, the government of Romania has decided to tax witches.


You read it right: Romania needs a big boost in tax revenue to fight off their recession. So, in January, they passed a new law to officially recognize witches, astrologers, and fortune tellers as ‘taxable professionals’ – who will now have to pay a 16% income tax.


This did not sit well with the witches, who, for centuries, have never paid taxes. And there’s nothing more fearsome, I might add, than a pissed-off witch.


Romania’s Queen Witch, Bratara Buzea, led a chorus in casting a spell using a special potion made from cat excrement and a dead dog. Other irate witches poured poisonous mandrake into the Danube so that, according to a witch named Alisia, “evil will befall the government.”


But a month later, to add insult to injury, President Traian Basescu and his government went even further:


They came up with a new bill that threatens fines or even imprisonment if the witches’ predictions don't come true.


"They can't condemn witches, they should condemn the cards," the Queen Witch told the Associated Press.


“Sometimes,” she argued, “people don't provide their real identities, dates of birth or other personal details, which could skew their predictions. We can't be blamed for that.”


This, by the way, is a real story. And I’m guessing you haven’t heard it because, well, some people in our country are probably afraid it might catch on here.


Imagine – having to pay a fine or face prison if your predictions don’t come true!


Wouldn’t you just love to deal with your stock broker on that basis?


“So, Lloyd, you’re predicting Berkshire Hathaway stock will go up 9-10% this year? Sure, I’ll buy some – but would you put it in writing, please?”


Not to mention all those serious-minded political pollsters, whose polls always seem to show that the candidate who’s ahead is the one who’s paying them.


And then there’s the U.S. Weather Bureau.


If they predict, say, a sunny day, and we get thunderstorms – they’d have to pay a big fine.


Actually, if each taxpayer got a little something back every time the weather bureau was wrong, it might end our recession a bit faster.


You know, maybe the Romanians are onto something.


(c) 2011 Peter Tannen




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