By Greg Clark, February 2, 1924
It Pays to Marry. But It Doesn’t Pay to Spend Money. Build a House or Have a Stake in the Community – The Floater Keeps Himself Liquid and Escapes Heavy Taxation.
When old John Doe died his estate amounted to only ten thousand five hundred dollars, and as he left it to his two sons in equal shares, no succession duty tax had to be paid on the estate to the Ontario government.
After the funeral’ expenses, debts and probate changes had been paid, there were exactly five thousand dollars left to each of the sons, John H. and Harry J. Doe.
Harry was the cute member of the family, always had been. He was married, but had no children. He was a traveler for a textile concern and lived in a fashionable apartment and had a good car.
Harry took his five thousand and put it at once into Ontario six per cent bonds, which he got at par on issue.
John Junior, was married and had five children, three of them over sixteen, but going to college.
John was bothered what to do with his five thousand. Should he pay off a bunch of debts, or should he get the new big touring car the boys wanted, or should he invest it?
He finally decided to build a house.
So he selected a good lot on a north end street, and went ahead with a house that cost him, in the end, twelve thousand dollars, house and land.
The five thousand cash went into materials for the house. He gave a mortgage for the remaining seven, which covered land and labor.
At the end of the year this is what had happened to the five thousand dollars of the two men.
Harry, that foxy lad, received from his $5,000 bond interest at 6 per cent., or $300.
John Junior first paid a transfer tax to the Ontario government on his $4,000 lot of $8.
He paid the workmen’s compensation tax of the minimum of $4 when the contractor put it in the bill.
On his materials, which cost $5,000, he paid the 6 per cent sales tax which, though paid at the point of production by the manufacturer, was nevertheless included in the cost of the material. So right there, John paid the dominion government a tax of $300.
The city assessment department assessed his new property at $9,000, and John was presented in due time with a tax bill of $300.
So, while Harry’s $5,000 brings him in $300 interest from the government, poor John’s five thousand gets him into a position where the various authorities tax him a total of $612.
Now, both Harry and John earn salaries of $5,000 per annum.
Harry, with this bonds, thus earns $5,300 a year. Being married, he is exempt $2,000.
John earns $5,000 and is exempt $2,000 as being married, and the dominion exempts him $300 for each child under sixteen. This only exempts him $2,600, as three of his children are over sixteen and going to college. But the city exempts him for the whole five children.
Foxy Harry’s Plan
But of his salary Harry saves $2,000 cold cash a year. He does it this way: With his five thousand bond from his father’s legacy as security, he goes to the bank and has the bank buy him $2,000 six per cent industrial bond at par. Then he pays $166.66 a month to the bank, purchasing one bond in one year. The bank charges him interest on the loan, but Harry gets interest on the bond. It works out very nicely at six months’ interest exactly. So Harry pays the bank $60 for the transaction, and gets $120 interest from the new purchase of bonds.
Now, the dominion income tax allows Harry to deduct the $60 he paid in bank interest for the purchase of the bond amongst his exemptions. The city assessor does not.
Harry, who is a traveler, uses his fine new big car in his business. The dominion income fax allows him 25 per cent, depreciation the first year plus his upkeep and repairs. This comes in Harry’s case to no less than $1,200. He keeps an itemized account of the cost of gas, oil and repairs.
So Harry pays income tax as follows: To the dominion, $5,000; salary, plus $300 bond interest, plus $120 new bond interest, less $2,000 married exemption, less $1,200 car expenses, less $60 carrying charges on the new industrial bond, or $2,160 taxable income, which at 4 per cent. makes a tax bill of $86.40. To the city income tax he is not exempt the $60 interest, and he is allowed only 20 per cent. depreciation on his car, plus upkeep and repairs. So Harry pays the city on taxable income of $2,330 at 33 1-3 mills, which renders bill of $69.60.
Now we come to poor old John.
John’s $5,000 salary is exempt $2,000 for being married plus $300 per child under sixteen by the dominion. He is therefore exempt $2,600. He pays the Dominion government # tax bill of $96. For while John has a car, he cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, describe it as an essential to the carrying on of his business. It is a family car. It is for the pleasure of his family of five children.
To the city, John pays a bill of $60. He gets no deduction for the money he has soaked into the building of his house, to the benefit and improvement of the city. He cannot deduct the $300 taxes on his new property.
“Why should he?” asks Harry.
On that cursed mortgage of $7,000, at 7 ½ per cent., poor John pays Interest of $525 per annum, not to mention reduction of principal.
Does he get exemption on that interest? Certainly NOT!
So while Harry, with an income of $5,420, on which to support a wife, a car and pays rent, expends a total in taxes of $156, John Junior, on total income of $5,000, on which to support a family of seven, a car, but owning his own house, a stake in the community, pays taxes totaling no less than $456.
Poor Old House-Owner
It is a wonder poor John hasn’t committed suicide on me before this. I will be glad to get this story written. It is positively pitiful the pickle we are getting John into.
For we are not through with him yet.
What is left of John’s income after he has paid all these taxes and charges on his new property and mortgage, he uses to the last nickel in keeping his family clothed and fed.
And on everything he buys for the use of his family, save only such food as is a direct product of the farm (not all food, remember), on such items as clothing, boots, tobacco, pies, cakes, hair nets, books, furniture, utensils, gas, oil, every mortal thing a family of seven buys from day to day, he is taxed another six per cent, by the Dominion government.
Of course, the tax law says this tax shall be paid at the point of production, but of course again, the people at the point of production are only the collectors of the tax for the dominion.
The tax is paid by the consumer of the goods. It is passed on. It isn’t the famous “turnover” tax they are talking about, but it is turned over, just the same. It is turned over and over until It reaches John.
“I wish,” says John, “they would invent a non turnover tax.”
So suppose John spends $3,000 of his salary (for he spends every cent of it) on manufactured goods which are taxed six per cent: then John pays the dominion another lump of cash – to wit, $180.
We have said nothing whatever about the biggest tax burglar of all, that lays for both John and Harry, but which gets to them only insofar as they are spenders of money. And that is the tariff.
The tariff, ranging from 15 to 35 per cent., is a tax not merely on what comes over the border – in which case the government gets the money again – but also on all things that don’t come over the border, for clothes made right in town, for example, cost what they cost plus what they would cost if they came over the border. That is, lest the American clothes which have to pay 35 per cent. duty on crossing the line, be put at an unfair disadvantage in the stern world of business competition, the Canadian manufacturers of clothing add on thirty-five per cent. too, to do the sporting thing. This Is one way of looking at it, as John says.
The Tariff Burglar
How much out of his $5,000 salary John pays the government through the tariff, through the extra money he has to pay resulting from the tariff, cannot be arrived at. But it is a hefty amount. For it involves not any piker 4 per cent or six per cent., like sales and income taxes, but 35 per cent…
It is so vague and veiled a thing, this tariff burglar, that John can’t visualize him, can’t feel personal about him. So John vents most of his feelings on the two or three taxes he can visualize.
This one year, in which that five thousand dollar legacy came like a blight into his life, John pays out: $300 sales tax on the building of the house, $300 property tax to the city. $156 income taxes, $180 sales tax on the things he buys to keep house. In addition he pays $525 interest on his mortgage. John is so hard up. he tries to borrow a few hundred from Harry. But Harry quite justifiably takes the view that John is in such circumstances it would not be safe to lend money to him.
So John borrows a little from a bank, at 7 ½ per cent.
What about Harry? He saves $2,000 out of his salary, so there is no sales tax on that. It isn’t spent. Having only his wife and himself to keep he doesn’t spend much on food and raiment. He spends some on golf fees and other club fees, which aren’t sales. He spends other sums, having a good time. Say he spends $2,000 on living the year.
Harry slips the government only $120 via the sales tax.
What is the moral of this sad story?
It is pretty clear.
Marry by all means: it exempts you $2,000. But don’t have any children, and don’t spend money, don’t build a house, don’t go and do that most foolish of all things, from a financial standpoint – don’t go and get yourself stake in the community.
Keep liquid. Buy bonds. Rent your flat. Then when times are hard, you can move to the States.
And when times are good, you can move back home.
Keep yourself liquid. Taxes say so.
Editor’s Note: I think the point of this article is that the taxes are too high, or at least not distributed in an appropriate manner, but the examples used do not make the point very well. Of course if John has five kids with 3 in college, he is going to have it tougher that Harry with no kids. Plus John is working towards home ownership which has value, compared to a renter.
This illustration by Jim accompanied an article on how Prohibition made some unscrupulous doctors money as they could give “prescriptions” for alcohol for “medicinal purposes”. The text indicated that one doctor issued 2005 prescriptions in one month. This abuse resulted in limits on how many prescriptions doctors could issue.
This story (by Fred Griffin) was illustrated by Jim, which was about new voting machines in the United States Presidential Election of 1924. The article noted differences between Canadian and American elections, including American special polling booths, no canvassers allowed within 100 feet, automatic vote counting with machines, and open betting on the results. The illustration mentions some of the candidates running, including
Robert La Follette for the Progressive Party, and New York State Governor candidates Al Smith and Theodore Roosevelt Jr.
Unrelated to the article, but on the same page, was a notice that this particular issue of the Toronto Star Weekly would be delivered to subscribers of the Toronto Sunday World, which had just shut down.
This comic references the concept of people going out to the country and ripping off farmers, with the notion that they would not miss a few blossoms (or ears of corn, or whatever, depending on the season).
By Greg Clark, April 5, 1924
To become aware of your first robin by hearing it sing, and to be unable to see it, is the best luck.
To see your first robin high up is the next best luck.
To see your first robin on the ground is not exactly bad luck but is certainly indifferent luck.
When I throw up the window of the small boy’s bedroom, at his bedtime, I heard a robin. The small boy was rushing about from room to room, making his last frantic selection of the things he would take to bed with him. He always takes the same things: a miniature railway engine, about two inches long, an absurd, bent little fifteen cent thing, a wooden horse with all its four legs broken off and a blue and yellow checked handkerchief. His last minute tour of selection, in which he picks up armfuls of things only to lay them down as he comes across the three old favorites, strikes me as very absurd. He keeps up a series of small shouts and exclamations to inspire patience in his parents. When he can’t find the colored handkerchief, it is sometimes in the wash, he selects the brightest of his father’s silk ties.
The robin was warbling in a casual manner, as if it had been up there on the housetops all winter. It little knew how it was halting the feet of men and flooding the hearts of perhaps fifty people with a sort of gospel.
I searched for it. It was close, but I couldn’t see it.
“Good luck,” I said.
“Goo-night,” replied the boy, entering the room with his three treasures in his clutch.
“Here, a robin!” I exclaimed, and lifted him to the window to hear it.
He listened – intently. Then he mocked it softly to show me he heard.
“A boy?” he asked.
“No, a robin,” I replied.
“‘Obin? A ‘obin boy fissing?”
“No, a robin, a bird, singing?”
He searched the trees and housetops, nor could he find it. More luck. The streets were still and the robin’s song filled the air.
“Not a bird,” said the boy, in a tone of remonstrance, “a bird says weet-weet.”
“But a robin sings.”
“It’s a boy,” he replied firmly. “A boy fissing (whistling) a wee, wee boy sitting up in a tree fissing.”
He is already in search of the marvelous. He is growing up.
“No,” said I, “It’s a robin, a bird, singing. Listen?”
So we listened at the window, arguing in hushed voices, until approaching footsteps from the inner room warned us to leave the open window.
As we performed the tucking-in ceremony, in which I play the role of curate only, the boy admitted my contention that it had been a bird singing and not a miraculous small boy up in the tree tops. He was so abstracted in thought, he failed to put the customary gusto into the proceedings and his mother thought he might be ill.
When he suddenly sat up and held out the engine, the legless horse and the handkerchief for me to take from him, we both thought he must be off color.
“Take these,” he said, indifferently.
“What! Don’t you……” I stammered.
“Take these,” he repeated. “Baba hear the ‘obin singing. Goo-night.”
And with fallen crests, we turned out his light and retreated from the room, with the faint song coming in the open window.
Editor’s Notes: This is a simple short story that Greg occasionally published in the 1920s when his children were small.
The first three lines are old superstitions on seeing the first robin of the spring. More specifically, if you see your first robin on the ground, then that is bad luck, but I guess he did not want to say that.
These illustrations were included in an article on Prohibition. In Ontario, it began as what was called “Local Option“, where individual towns could choose to be “dry”. It was introduced across the province in 1916 during World War One. After the war, a coalition of United Farmers and Labour kept prohibition going. After the 1923 election of Conservative Howard Ferguson (pictured as the “referee”), he moved cautiously since public opinion was still split. The illustration below shows the sides. Only after another referendum in 1924 and election in 1926 did prohibition get repealed.
By Greg Clark, March 22, 1924
“Have you got a radio set yet?” asks my bosom friend Jim.
“No,” I say, firmly. “Not on your life. I neither play golf nor have I a radio set. There have to be some members of the community left to carry on business as usual.”
“Say, come on over to my place to-night,” says Jim. “and I’ll show you the niftiest little set that can reach out into eternal space and bring more entertainment out of the air than all the theatres in town … “
So I go.
Jim’s children are all sitting around a sort of box, when I arrive, with earphones to their heads and solemn expressions on their faces.
“They’ll be through in a minute,” says Jim. “They are listening to the bedtime stories.”
In a minute, I am seated in one of the departed children’s places, earphones on my head, listening intently to a profound silence.
Jim, beaming and rubbing his hands, shouts:
“Now, what would you like? Jazz? A mid-week sermon? A lecture or a political speech? What? And how far would you like to go tonight? Pittsburg, Chicago, Denver? Will I get you CFCA or CZCX, GGBG or PQRS?”
“I don’t care,” says I. “DSCR, BUNK, TWW or ATCM. Anything.”
“All right,” says Jim, bending to the knobs.
“Sh! Just a second.”
A little wee, wee voice, muffled in hisses, says, “not at all. On the other hand, hooooooooOOOOOOOOOWEEEEEE!”
“I don’t get the drift,” says I.
“Just a second,” says Jim, fiddling softly with the knobs like Jimmie Valentine cracking a safe.
Snick. SNOCK. SNUCK.
Yoo-hoo! Yoo-hoo! YOO-HOO!
“Yoo-hoo!” I retort.
“Just a second,” says Jim, bent over.
“Texas, by gum; rattlesnakes,” says I.
“Just a second,” says Jim.
Tuck. TUCK. Tick, tick, tick, tick.
“What time does this thing go off?”
“Just a second.”
Suddenly, I am delighted to hear, faintly, I admit, as though a phonograph in a distant room had all its doors closed and a hankie stuffed in its sound box, a little tinkle of music and a gnome with a little tiny voice singing ..
” … sitting pretty in a pretty little city … tya-de-da te-um te-yaaaAAAAAAa-WooooooOOOOOO .. WHACK.”
“Los Angeles!” yells Jim, his face red with the exertion of fumbling through infinite space.
“Los Angeles or Buffalo, I don’t know which.”
“Well, where did it go?” I ask.
“Just a second.”
TCK, CHCK. Snick, tinkle tink a tink, pretty, in pretty little yoo-oo, wow-oo, tinkle tink a OO-oo, SNICK. OO-oo, Yoo-oo, tinkle tinka tink, TINK A TINKLE TINK …
And then, with a swoop and a rush, in comes a flood of music, full and sharp and clear. It is an orchestra. It plays four bets of music to a fine, flourishing close, and stops, and then there is a loud round of hand clapping.
“We got here a bit late,” says I.
“Just a second.”
A voice says:
“We are signing off for fifteen minutes to let the saxophones cool out. BLAH signing off. For fifteen minutes.”
“Well, where’ll we go now?” says Jim, rubbing his hands.
“Let’s go for a walk during intermission,” I say. “Go out in the lobby for a walk.”
“Cleveland?” says Jim. “Schenectady?”
“Let’s go upstairs and look at your fishing tackle,” says I.
“C’mon over to my place and play bridge.”
“What do you say to making a try for Miami?”
“C’mon down to Bloor street and look in the store windows.”
“St. Louis has a good program to-night.”
“Yeh? Well, Doug Fairbanks is down at the Rivoli.”
“Just a second,” says Jim, taking hold of the knobs.
“What place is this we’re passing? Lots of business by the sound of the factory whistles.”
“Just a second,” says Jim.
Editor’s Note: In the very early days of radio, it was just a box with dials and no speakers. You had to listen with headphones. There were very few scheduled programs, and no restrictions on a radio station’s power, so you would just try your luck to tune in a station that could be across the continent.