Whether we’re Tea Partiers, Progressives, or fall somewhere between the two on the political spectrum, all us Americans bitch about our taxes. We gripe about how much we pay, who else pays too much or too little, and what the money gets spent on.
As this year’s filing deadline looms, it occurs to me that taxpayers in superhero universes likely complain as well. But their gripes might be a little different.
If we assume the Marvel and DC USA’s spend as much on defense as our government does, then surely complaints about bloated, wasteful military budgets are even more prevalent there than in our neck of the multiverse. Because those Earths rarely experience armed conflicts as mundane as wars between the ordinary human nations of “the surface world” (as Prince Namor the Submariner is wont to call it.) Instead, humanity as a whole faces frequent attacks from Atlantis (Namor’s guys), the center of the Earth, other planets, other dimensions, and the future.
Conventional forces invariably turn out to be useless in the face of such threats. It’s volunteer superheroes, guys who don’t cost taxpayers a penny, who save the day. So why should the government spend billions on the military? The brass just end up blowing it on endless futile attempts to capture the Hulk (who only wants to left alone!) and ill-advised experiments that wind up creating supervillains like Major Force.
Now, a guy like Col. Nick Fury, director of SHIELD, might defend his budget by arguing that while it’s the Avengers who actually go kick the crap out of the Skrulls and Kang the Conqueror, his cadre of high-tech superspies provides vital intelligence to the heroes. And in Marvel Washington, that might fly. But in the DC Universe, the members of the Justice League simply take turns on monitor duty watching for emergent threats on dozens of video screens.
This turns out to work perfectly well, and once again, without burdening the taxpayer.
And while organizations like SHIELD that provide intelligence and logistical support to superheroes, may well be unnecessary, attempts to regulate freelance superheroes and/or coopt them into the formal command structure of government invariably prove downright destructive. When the DC Congress of the McCarthy era ordered the members of the Justice Society to reveal their true identities, they disbanded instead, surely to the detriment of national security.
Decades later, a similar initiative in Marvel America led to a tragic “civil war” among superheroes, while the Mutant Registration Act exacerbates conflict between homo sapiens and homo superior. Surely sensible citizens in each reality decry the use of their tax dollars to fund such intrusive extensions of Big Government.
In light of the manifest truth that only superheroes can protect the United States from the likes of the Sinestro Corps and the Annihilation Wave, it might appear that the best use for the defense budget would be for the government to create entirely new superhero teams, but even this approach is problematic. The most efficient way to build a squad of battle-seasoned superhumans turns out to be recruiting incarcerated villains from places like the Vault and Arkham Asylum.
And in fact, the Thunderbolts and the Suicide Squad have protected the country from numerous threats. Still, citizens have every right to worry about what might happen if a member of either team slips the leash and to object on moral grounds to a repeat offender convicted of heinous crimes being offered the chance to earn early release. And again, there’s the issue of redundancy. Do you really need to shell out taxpayer bucks for Thunderbolts if you’ve already got the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, or for a Suicide Squad if you’ve got the JLA and the Teen Titans?
Perhaps DC and Marvel Americans don’t begrudge any tax money that goes to maintaining infrastructure and disaster relief. After all, in a milieu where superhumans are constantly settling their differences with Herculean punches and energy blasts, and colossal threats are frequently on the verge of destroying the planet itself, property damage is a given. I’d go so far as to say that in the worlds of Superman and Spider-Man, a gig in the construction industry is probably the ultimate in job security.
But on the other hand, all that devastation tends to repeatedly hit the same places (by a series of uncanny coincidences, the very places where the superheroes live.) Maybe DC citizens who live in Wichita get tired of seeing their tax dollars go to rebuild Ivytown and Midway City. People in Marvel Wichita might develop the same jaundiced view of the Big Apple.
In fact, we can infer some people think this way from the “Cataclysm” and “No Man’s Land” sequences in the ongoing sage of the Batman. In those tales, an earthquake ravages Gotham City, and the Federal government opts to evacuate and then quarantine the place rather than rebuild it. Obviously, Gotham’s reputation as a breeding ground for homicidal maniacs plays a role in this decision, but it’s not a stretch to think monetary considerations and resentments do as well.
Maybe, in Marvel and DC America, people even think of the country as divided into Cape and No-Cape states the way we’ve come to divide it into Red and Blue ones.
Despite the need to suppress and clean up after the likes of Kobra, Hydra, the Injustice Gang, and the Masters of Evil, the position of a taxpayer in DC or Marvel America isn’t entirely unfavorable compared to that of you or me. As you may be able to tell, I’ve read a lot of DC and Marvel comics, and I have yet to come across one that deals with corporate welfare and bailouts.
That may be because when unscrupulous corporations like Lexcorp, Oscorp, Roxxon, and Stane International get into financial trouble, they turn to criminal superscience and pacts with demonic entities from beyond space and time to get themselves out.
To be fair, they generally were evil to begin with and so already have these resources in place. Still, those of us who had to pay for the resuscitation of real-world America’s mammoth investment banks can only wish they had the same kind of moxie and can-do attitude.
Even if no superheroes showed up to stop them unleashing their giant robots or whatever (which is by no means a certainty because hey, Phoenix Jones, Phantom Zero, and their colleagues are on the job now, right?), we might be better off than we are letting them milk the Federal Reserve.
Anyway, no matter why you hate paying your taxes, don’t forget to file by the 17th. Remember, too, that if your secret HQ is inside your house, you can take a deduction, but if the “lair” is actually under the house, like in a cave, or in a pocket dimension accessible via the house, that cuts the deduction by 50 percent. Similarly, you can only claim your kid sidekick as a dependent if, in his civilian identity, he meets the legal definition of a “youthful ward.”