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Bureaucratic rationality #5: A Dream Deferred edition

Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 17 years ago, in 2007, on the World Wide Web.

First the IRS ate your Christmas turkey. Now they are coming to crush your childhood dreams, too.

(Via Technology Liberation Front 2007-01-29.)

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) — Brian Emmett’s childhood fantasy came true when he won a free trip to outer space.

But the 31-year-old was crushed when he had to cancel his reservation because of Uncle Sam.

Emmett won his ticket to the stars in a 2005 sweepstakes by Oracle Corp., in which he answered a series of online questions on Java computer code.

He became an instant celebrity, giving media interviews and appearing on stage at Oracle’s trade show.

For the self-described space buff who has attended space camp and watched shuttle launches from Kennedy Space Center, it seemed like a chance to become an astronaut on a dime.

Then reality hit. After some number-crunching, Emmett realized he would have to report the $138,000 galactic joy ride as income and owe $25,000 in taxes.

Unwilling to sink into debt, the software consultant from the San Francisco Bay area gave up his seat.

There was definitely a period of mourning. I was totally crestfallen, Emmett said. Everything you had hoped for as a kid sort of evaporates in front of you.

— CNN.com 2007-01-29: Uncle Sam spoils dream trip to space

Normally you would think that winning a contest would be the only way that people other than the hyper-rich might have a chance to experience space tourism in the near future; right now the cash price of a space trip is prohibitiely expensive for anyone else. So prohibitively expensive that just paying the tax on that much income would be prohibitively expensive for anyone else, too.

But if the tax bureaucrats didn’t make sure that you pay for your once-in-a-lifetime chance a trip to the stars, at a rate assessed according to the current, prohibitively expensive cash value of that trip, then who would? Best to keep the rabble away from a chance at being astronauts anyway; hopes and dreams can be dangerous things.

Bureaucratic rationality, n. The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy without permission.

5 replies to Bureaucratic rationality #5: A Dream Deferred edition Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. Wild Pegasus

    This is a no-brainer. Borrow the money, pay the tax, take the space ride.

    • Josh
  2. Rad Geek


    Well, that’s a great plan if you have access to a $30,000 line of credit and nothing better to do with $30,000 plus compounding interest. But I expect Emmett was figuring that possibility in when he decided that he couldn’t afford the bill the IRS would force on him for his free space trip.

  3. Wild Pegasus

    It’s a still a no-brainer. Mortgage your house, if you have to. But take the space ride.

    • Josh

— 2012 —

  1. Discussed at www.patheos.com

    IRS Investigation of Church Political Activity, Redux:

    […] some other way to address the issue. Presumably. Maybe. If there is, I can’t find it. Shit.(source)What gets me is the IRS guy I spoke with while writing my piece last week told me that the IRS is […]

— 2013 —

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