Peter Tannen

Pete Tannen is a humor writer who has won multiple awards from the National Press Club (Washington, D.C.), the Press Club of Long Island and the Florida Press Association. His columns can also be heard on select Public Radio stations across the U.S.

The 2012 Oddball Tax Awards

the-taxiesWe all know our government is strapped for money.

But you probably haven’t heard about some of the really bizarre new taxes people have started paying recently.

So we’ve decided to honor America’s fiscal creativity with our first “Oddball Tax Award”—given for the most outlandish new tax that anyone has come up with this past year.

Here, without further ado, are the nominees and winners in the 2012 “Oddball Tax Awards”:

Alabama, for taxing any deck of playing cards that has less than 54 cards

Connecticut, for deciding to tax children’s diapers, but not adult ones

Arkansas, for a breakthrough new tax on tattoos and body-piercings

Maryland, for taxing a bottle of your own wine you bring into a restaurant

The Runner-up: New York, for its exciting “Bagel Alteration Tax”—a tax of 8 cents on every bagel that is “altered,” which means that if the man behind the deli counter cuts your bagel and adds a schmear, you pay an extra tax. Uncut bagels, however, are tax-free. Go figure.

And our 2012 Winner: the Great State of Utah, which now has levied a 10-percent tax on the fees collected by nude or partially nude workers. (“Excuse me, ma’am, I’m from the IRS. I just saw that gentleman stuff cash down your G-string and I’m required to count it…”)

Friends, it’s clear that America has to do better next year. Our country needs some fresh, outside-the-box ideas for taxes. And we’re asking for your input.

Here are a few ideas to help get you started thinking:

Animal Flatulence Fee
Scientists tell us that methane from the flatulence of cows is one of the main causes of global warming. (Honest. I am not making this up.) Well then, this is a no-brainer. The only question is whether we extend this yearly fee to non-farm animals, possibly even to people who consistently overeat.

Illegible Penmanship Tax
Tens of thousands of man- and woman-hours are spent trying to figure out what people have written—on IRS tax returns, on driver’s license applications, on write-in ballots, etc. If government employees waste their valuable time struggling to read your handwriting, it should cost you.

Non-Consumption Tax
Our economy depends on the ever-expanding consumption of goods and services. This keeps our factories humming, our workers employed. So, if you’re not consuming enough stuff, you ought to step up to the plate and max out your credit cards, or face a stiff tax for not buying your “fair share.”

The Bullshit Fee
This is perhaps the largest potential source of revenue there is, particularly in our state capitols and on Wall Street. Even though Ernest Hemingway claimed he had a “built-in bullshit detector,” this did nothing to reduce the enormous quantity produced each year. If economists could figure out a way to measure and charge for it, we could balance our budget in no time flat.

If you have an idea for a new tax to help our government raise money, please leave a comment at the bottom of this “Just Saying” column. If you’re reading this column in the printed newspaper, go online to

Your country needs you!

Editor’s Note: This is a non-partisan column. In some cases, Pete has used the word “taxes,” as preferred by Democrats. In other cases, he’s used the word “fees,” as preferred by Republicans, mainly to prove they’re against new taxes. Bottom line: It all comes out of the same pocket: yours. 

Pete Tannen is a humor writer who has won multiple awards from the National Press Club (Washington, D.C.), the Press Club of Long Island and the Florida Press Association. His columns can also be heard on select Public Radio stations across the U.S.

Long Island Slowly Drifting Toward Connecticut

Illustration by Jon Moreno

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. government released a long-awaited geological report that contains startling news for the New York area.

According to data released this morning, the whole of Long Island has begun to slowly drift northeastward, toward Connecticut.

“The reason for this is unclear,” said a U.S. Geological Survey spokesperson, “but shock waves from the recent massive earthquakes in the Western Pacific basin might have loosened the crystalline bedrock on which Long Island has rested since the Paleozoic Age.”

According to the report, the Island is drifting 96.52 cm (38 in.) per year—slowly enough to escape public notice, but fast enough to cause considerable damage when the North Shore of Long Island inevitably collides with the shoreline of Connecticut.

“Shifting tectonic plates in our area,” continued the spokesperson, “could speed up this move dramatically. But it’s too early to calculate exactly how fast the Island will be traveling when it hits the mainland.”

According to maps accompanying the report, Brooklyn will graze Westchester County and continue moving in a northeasterly direction until it comes to rest near Greenwich, Conn.

On the eastern end, Montauk will wind up moving into Narragansett Bay.

Manhattan and the Bronx will then be exposed directly to the Atlantic Ocean, and will develop miles of beaches along the East Side, stretching from Canal Street up to the previous site of the Throgs Neck Bridge. (These new ocean beaches will replace the entire FDR Drive and Avenues C & D.)

Northport, LI, will run into Fairfield, Conn., a severe cultural shock for both communities. Not to mention the astonishment of Mattituck residents waking up to see the historic colonial homes of Old Lyme on the outskirts of their farms.

Serious political and economic questions arise:

Will Long Island continue to be part of New York State? Or will it become part of a new, expanded Connecticut?

Will we actually understand our new senators and congressmen if they talk with odd Connecticut accents?

Will wealthy residents of Westport and Fairfield be given access to Long Island beaches—or, as the area will be called, the “Connecticut Hamptons”?

Will people from Manhattan forsake the Hamptons for the new “Manhattan Riviera”?

Will business travelers continue to use LaGuardia and Kennedy airports, since they are now several hours away from Manhattan?

And will the Nets and Islanders be able to draw a new fan base from Fairfield County, whose main sporting interests appear to be Jai Alai and World Wrestling?

The governors of both states have called for a joint emergency task force to figure out if this “Island Drift” can be stopped, or at least slowed.

Private talks with General Electric, manufacturer of some of the most powerful turbine engines in the world, hint at the possibility of multiple turbines being mounted on the North Shore of Long Island to push it back south, to its original location.

But it remains unclear how this multi-turbine plan will overcome strict noise and environmental regulations in both Nassau and Suffolk counties.

The U.S. Council of Vodka, Gin, Tequila and Rum Distillers were quick to announce their support for this joint task force, due to their serious concerns about whether “Connecticut Iced Tea” will have the same marketing clout as the current “Long Island Iced Tea.”

In related news, a rumor that Texas has also come loose and might wind up separating from rest of the United States was greeted with enthusiasm from most other states.

Superheroes Finally Admit Using Performance-Enhancing Drugs

Wonder Woman - Steroids (Illus. Jon Moreno)
Wonder Woman - Steroids (Illus. Jon Moreno)
Illustration by Jon Moreno

NEW YORK — Two months after Lance Armstrong admitted to using illegal drugs, three Superheroes appeared at a joint press conference this morning and each of them confessed that they had, at different times in their careers, also used performance-enhancing drugs.

“Leap a tall building in a single bound?” asked Superman. “Unless you’re on serious anabolic steroids, there’s absolutely no way you’d even get to the third story,” said The Man of Steel.

“The public is naive and gullible,” added Spider-Man. “Did people actually think a skinny kid like Peter Parker could jump around like that without chemical help?”

When a reporter pointed out that Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider which gave him his superpowers, Spider-Man laughed and said, “Give me a break.”

Batman, the quietest of the trio, said he only used amphetamines in his early comic book years, not when he got into the movies. “I was young and stupid,” he said, “and I haven’t used them since my big Hollywood debut back in 1989.”

When asked where he got the drugs, Batman smiled.

“Look,” he said, “I’m a wealthy industrialist, playboy, and philanthropist. How hard is it for my butler, Alfred, to get me any drug I want in Gotham City?”

As for Robin, his sidekick, Batman said, “The kid is innocent and never took any drugs. Leave him out of this.”

“I don’t know why they’re singling out these guys right now,” said an unidentified attorney who represented the three Superheroes. “Some things that happen on the football field and in triathlons are clearly beyond human ability.”

“And why are women getting a pass? Has anyone questioned Wonder Woman yet? If I ran a congressional committee, I’d certainly check out those Amazons.”

The Hulk, Captain America, Wolverine, Halo Jones, The Joker, Dr. Doom and Emma Frost did not return phone calls for comment.

Somali Pirates Offer Loan To Nassau County

Somali Pirates Offer Loan To Nassau County (Jon Moreno)
Somali Pirates Offer Loan To Nassau County
Illustration by Jon Moreno

NEW YORK — At a press conference today, the chief financial officer of the Somali Pirates offered Nassau County a substantial low-cost loan to help solve its current financial crisis.

CFO Abdikarim Laaban said the Pirates had up to 275 million euro available to help the county, as it once again teetered on the brink of an economic cliff.

The terms of the loan offer were not disclosed, but a spokesperson for Nassau County hinted it was better than anything they had received from the U.S. Congress, thanks to ideological opposition from Conservative Republicans from Southern and Southwestern states.

The Somali Pirates (New York Stock Exchange Symbol: SOPIR) had a successful IPO in early December, when the market valued their stock at 57.4 billion euro on the first day of trading.

As he rang the opening bell on the NYSE floor, the leader of the Pirates was heard to comment, “It is wonderful to be among our brothers here on Wall Street.”

Mr. Laaban also confirmed that the Pirates are negotiating with Nassau County to allow them to open a branch office on Long Island Sound. This, he said, was part of a long-term strategic plan to increase their worldwide market penetration and revenue. They currently operate only in the Gulf of Aden.

“This will be a brand new market for us,” said Mr. Laaban, “And we certainly want to follow local customs and traditions and be a good corporate neighbor.”

A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said they were following the situation closely. Analysts noted, however, that they would be hard-pressed to patrol Long Island waters under their current budget.

“Monitoring the whole of Long Island Sound is an expensive job,” said the spokesperson. “Especially since we have learned that terrorists have recently bought exploding underwear from China,” he continued. “So purchasing X-ray machines with the newest ‘Butt-Scanner’ technology is our first priority.”

Nassau County, one of America’s richest, is in serious financial trouble. The county was already facing a projected $25 million budget deficit before Superstorm Sandy further devastated the region’s economy.

Long Island cities and towns faced huge budget deficits before the storm, and were fighting to get their fiscal houses in order since the recession lowered tax revenues. They also face large pension and health-care obligations.

The Somali Pirates, on the other hand, seized a record 1,181 hostages in the second half of 2012 and corporate income rose 27.5 percent.

“Nassau County has a grave financial crisis,” said the Pirates’ CFO, “And we’d be happy to work with them to restore a balanced budget.

“Also, property values on the North Shore are still relatively quite low, and with increased U.S. Navy activity in the Gulf of Aden, Long Island seems like a more attractive place to live and work.”

“Besides, Long Island politicians cannot possibly be more corrupt that those in the Middle East. Can they?”

In other news, Suffolk County, which is in the midst of its own financial meltdown, confirmed today that they had called the Somali Pirates’ main office but their calls had not yet been returned.

“The eastern end of Long Island has a long history of being friendly to pirates,” said one anonymous legislator. “We’re all for private enterprise, and our people are currently putting together a package of corporate tax breaks to bring their organization here.”

Pete Tannen is a humor writer who has won multiple awards from the National Press Club (Washington, D.C.), the Press Club of Long Island and the Florida Press Association. His columns can also be heard on select Public Radio stations across the U.S.