We often smile when we hear of Victorian prudery regarding sex.  A mother’s advice to her daughter before her marriage regarding conjugal relations—“Just lie back and think of England, dear”—evokes laughter.  We chuckle when we learn that our ancestors referred to chicken breasts as “white meat,” to chicken legs as “drumsticks.”  In our sexually charged world, we may be surprised to hear that “amorous congress” was not a call for amicability at the Capitol, but was instead a euphemism for the sexual act among our great-great-grandparents.

For better or for worse, we’re now way past those niceties, but we have become equally as prudish when discussing our incomes.  To ask others—strangers, best friends, relatives—about their annual salary is surely one of the most impolite questions of our time.  Looking back over 50 years of working, I don’t remember anyone ever asking me how much money I earned in a year.

A brush with the Internal Revenue Service has convinced me that the time has come for me to reveal my income and where some of that money goes.  Only by focusing on a real situation—and I have no knowledge of anyone else’s income other than my own—can I make my case for the injustices done to millions of Americans.  Some of my readers may sympathize with what I write here.  Some of you may be incensed at my take on the economy and your place in it.  Let the chips fall where they may.

In 2015, my federal adjusted gross income came in at $59,000; my taxable federal income, at just below $50,000.  I made a good bit more than this first figure, but those additional monies went to business expenses: rent at the church where I taught home-educated students Latin, history, writing, and literature; payments made to students who helped me mark papers; copies of documents made for students; books bought for students; a few other deductions.  Let me add in fairness that, in 2015, I had no large deductions: I rent an apartment rather than own a home, and my children are married and leading their own lives.

In 2015, I paid federal taxes of $3,450 per quarter.  That comes to a total of $13,800 for the year.  In 2014, with approximately the same income but with my son and his education counting as deductions, I received a check back from the federal government for $750.

When I filed my 2015 taxes, my accountant informed me I owed the government an additional $2,825.

Let’s look at that figure for a moment.

For 2015, I paid the federal government $16,625 on an income of less than $60,000.  In other words, I paid the federal government about 28 percent of my income.

In addition, I disbursed about $3,000 to the state of North Carolina.

Finally, of course, I shelled out those hidden taxes we all pay: the taxes on gasoline, groceries, purchases ranging from books to clothing, the city taxes on electricity, the property taxes on my apartment (the landlord surely figures these into the rent), the taxes on my car that go toward the purchase and maintenance of Asheville city school buses.

Basically, I paid close to 40 percent of my income in taxes to various governments in 2015.

Now, I should explain one other factor: I am self-employed.  Being self-employed means paying double the taxes in Social Security.

In the meantime, since the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, went into effect, my health insurance costs went up 50 percent.  By 2015, I was paying over $600 monthly for health insurance for myself and my college-age son.  I am now on Medicare, but with the necessary supplemental insurance, my health insurance this year will cost me about $3,200.  (My favorite memo from Blue Cross/Blue Shield, my former carrier, announced several years ago that my rates were increasing in part to pay for the pregnancies of strangers.)

Meanwhile, 35 percent of my fellow Americans are on some sort of welfare.  In addition, 14 million of them, a record high, receive disability payments from the federal government.  Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security devour an enormous portion of our annual budget.

Like most conservatives, I believe that the federal government is out of control in its spending and its regulations.  Like most conservatives, I believe the chief concerns of that government to be the defense of the United States, international negotiations, and certain interior measures regarding interstate trade and travel.  According to the Constitution, additional responsibilities of the federal government include the regulation of naturalization, provision for a sound money system, a post office, and protection of intellectual properties.

And like many conservatives, I am not opposed to helping the truly needy through government interaction, though I would prefer that help come from local and state governments.  Nor am I opposed to giving assistance to the truly disabled.

What rankles me as a taxpayer is the massive amount of cheating, fraud, and deception within our current social-services system.  Here are some examples.

First case: A banker I know tells me of a husband and wife who were seeking a loan to buy a house.  When the banker asked about their incomes, she discovered both were on disability.  At the end of the meeting, the banker wished her clients a good day.  “Oh, it will be good,” the husband said.  “We’re going for a hike in the mountains.”

“This scenario happens all the time,” the banker told me.

Second case: In a report titled “Unfit For Work,” NPR correspondent Chana Joffe found that one in four working-age adults in Hale County, Alabama, were on disability.  The claims for disability included back pain, “mental illness,” diabetes, and high blood pressure.  A working judge who heard one of these cases had both high blood pressure and back pain.

Time brings aches and pains.  I am 65 years old.  My knees hurt when climbing stairs.  I am fighting skin cancer.  Sometimes my back aches.  My eyes are bad.  I have tinnitus.  I practice some detrimental habits.  Sometimes I feel a little crazy.  Like everyone of my years, I have suffered tragedy and death.

People used to call this old age.  Apparently, some of my fellow citizens call it disability.

Third case: A translator I know who works with Hispanic immigrants helps connect them to various welfare and healthcare programs, while she herself can hardly scratch out her monthly rent.

Illegal immigrants in the United States number in the millions.  These people, mostly from south of the Rio Grande, cost American taxpayers about ten billion dollars per year in services rendered.  Were they given amnesty, that cost would rise dramatically.

Fourth case: A young Catholic homeschooling mother of my acquaintance has six children.  Investigating federal and state programs, she discovered she was eligible for $900 worth of food stamps monthly as well as Medicaid benefits.  At that time, she and her husband lived in a run-down part of a town in Northern Virginia, where they once received by mail an announcement that the federal government would help subsidize their cellphone cost and billing.  (Both husband and wife possess too much pride to take advantage of any of these programs.)

Fifth case: Some government institutions offer ridiculous luxury.  For instance, take a look at the meal program provided by your state universities.  Recently, I investigated (via the web) dining halls and menus for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Take a few minutes and look into your own state universities, and see how well you’re eating compared with our tax-funded college students.

Then there’s the sheer waste by government officials.  Look at what President Obama spends on his vacations.  Would the guy ever consider going to a Holiday Inn instead of some million-dollar rental?  Google “percentage of federal employees who watch porn at work.”  See if you’re happy with the statistics that pop up.  Take a peek at “federal expenditures,” and see if the figures make you a happy voter.

Then look up “new federal regulations.”  You’ll soon realize you aren’t being governed by a president and a Congress, but by bureaucrats.  Federal regulations in 2015 were at an all-time high.  Why mention regulations here?  Because this thicket of rules costs you and me money.

I have no problem with paying my fair share of taxes.  I have no problem helping those people who truly need my help.  I don’t mind supporting everything from playgrounds to military aircraft, from helping those who have hit rock bottom to those who attend community college.

But I do resent supporting those who misuse my money.  Given my income, I resent paying thousands of dollars in taxes every year to subsidize waste, inefficiency, fraud, and laziness.

In the latter days of the Roman Empire, many people who were unable to pay their taxes went “off the grid,” resorting to a barter economy.  Like those ancient citizens of Rome, men and women today who work independently of the government or large corporations will continue to find their chief enemy is not the vicissitudes of the economy, but the thievery of a government system gone mad.  Like the Romans 2,000 years ago, they will also have to find a way around the system if they mean to survive.

This year I have taken a step in that direction.  At the suggestion of my oldest son, an attorney, I have incorporated my one-man teaching and writing business, which my accountant tells me should cut my taxes by half.

In addition, I have decided to hire fewer students next fall to help me mark papers.  This is unfortunate, for my student graders learn valuable editorial skills performing their work.  The work allows them to take pride in their past achievements—they must have taken one of my Advanced Placement courses to earn their position—and the opportunity to add this job to their college résumé.  In terms of the economy, hiring few graders has only minute consequences, but multiply it a million times across the country, and there will be fewer workers, which means fewer people paying taxes.

Finally, I will encourage some of the parents of my students to pay me with gift cards from grocery stores, coffee shops, and bookstore.  I will always need some cash, but will draw part of my income from this source.

I have spent the last 30 years working hard and meeting a budget, and I am accustomed to living by the old New England adage “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”  I’ll make my way, but will pay less and less in taxes.  One way or the other, I will get by.

To those of you who are legitimately collecting welfare and disability, and to those who do an honest day’s work for your government jobs, you have my apologies.  I can’t afford you anymore.