For us in the Music Department, we couldn't help but think of tax season in terms of song. So to help get you through the long slog of forms, addenda, worksheets, and more, we've put together a soundtrack for the effort. This playlist progresses through the Dewey Decimal Classification System to highlight the broad spectrum of ways that taxes fund our diverse human experiences. Annotations below will help you draw out some of the more obscure connections.
000 Computer science, information & general works
001.942 UFOs | Books about UFOs : Husker Du
Let this track serve as foreshadowing of everything to come. From a walk to the neighborhood library to intergalactic space travel, Husker Du in under 3 minutes takes us on the same journey as this mix tape. Tax supported libraries? Check. Tax funded mysteries at Area 51? Maybe. Taxation for the commonweal in outer space? We'll see...
021 Library Relationships | The Librarian : My Morning Jacket
Libraries and the librarians who make them happen couldn't exist without your tax dollars. My Morning Jacket certainly seems to appreciate at minimum our aesthetic qualities, while setting an evocative library scene.
100 Philosophy & psychology
176 Ethics of sex & reproduction | La Femme Fatale : Digable Planets
The Golden Age of Hip Hop gave us so many gems, but (a Grammy not withstanding) Digable Planets were among the most under appreciated. In La Femme Fatale, Butterfly maturely explores some of the ethical dimensions of reproductive rights in America. Our tax funded Supreme Court makes an appearance, although David Souter's position on Roe v. Wade may not be fairly represented in the lyrics.
228 Apocalypse | Oh Lord Don't Let Them Drop That Atomic Bomb on Me : Charles Mingus
Nuclear deterrence and nuclear policy are the ultimate example of the Weberian conceptual definition of the State as a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. However, the apocalyptic power of the atom bomb hasn't gone uncontested. Mingus offers this song as a prayer against a man-made fiery end.
300 Social sciences
331 Labor economics | Take this Job And Shove It : Johnny Paycheck
Gigging and teaching musicians know well the pain of gathering all the 1099s and receipts necessary to file as a working musician. Sometimes the day-job, with the convenience of automatic withholdings via W-4s and end of the year W-2s, can almost seem worth it. Well, not for Johnny Paycheck.
345 Criminal Law | I Fought the Law : Clash
If there's been a growth industry in America, it's been the prison-industrial complex. This is certainly one of the more disheartening public institutions our tax dollars make possible. When working class people fight the law, the law has a tendency to win. Could the expense of the prison system force policy makers to experiment with treating more crimes with the lighter touch that white-collar financial criminals enjoy? Or should proportionality be brought upon those crimes in the suites which might cost society more in the first place? Is there a third way in restorative justice practices?
350 Public administration & military science | Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos : Public Enemy
Speaking of the prison industrial complex, Chuck D poetically links debates about conscription, servitude, and mass incarceration in this biting tale involving the military-industrial complex that capture the lion's share of our tax dollars.
363.2 Police services | State Trooper : Bruce Springsteen
Despite the fraught history of policing in America, at least it is an institution over which we can potentially exert democratic control. What's the alternative? Private policing?
363.232 Police functions - Patrol and Surveillance | Private Eyes : Hall & Oates
"I see you. You see me." Prophetic words in our the era of Snowden's leaks about the depths of our modern surveillance society, and our own joy and complicity at being watched.
373 Secondary education | They School : Dead Prez
Public education—especially in Philadelphia—has seen a vigorous set of attacks from the right in recent years. It's thus interesting to hear Dead Prez's passionate and sharp critique from the left. While all the research seems to suggest poverty in the community is the largest influence on a student outcomes, schools are indeed a potential site for investment of public dollars for public goods, aka "each other".
383 Postal communication | Please Mr. Postman : The Marvellettes
The continuation of a constitutionally mandated and robust public postal service is as worthy of yearning after as Gladys Horton's boyfriend's letters appeared to be. Maybe a postal bank serving the underserved might bring back some of the mojo to the institution good old Ben Franklin had the honor of first overseeing?
388.1 Transportation - Roads | Expressway to Your Heart : The Soul Survivors
Road building certainly is a grand public works project at which America excels. Some writers worry we're too good at it. Time spent driving is time not spent on the expressway to someone else's heart.
404.2 Bilingualism | Bilingual Girl : Yerba Buena
Occasionally throughout American history there have been nativist calls for the establishment of an official language, usually English. Instead, our pluralist multilingual society has usually opted to support a bi or multilingual program which is so coyly represented in Yerba Buena's "Bilingual Girl". Truly, most monolingualists would have to agree that two tongues are better than one.
523.3 The Moon | Whitey on the Moon : Gil Scott Heron
Spending on space, while Earth has its own problems, has long seemed problematic. Gil Scott-Heron's juxtaposition of his as well as his sister Nell's experiences, and the space race couldn't be clearer. Beyond science for science's sake or the sake of hegemony, isn't there something to be said for dreaming of Afro-Futurist affairs? Don't we want a kind of Metropolarity where we can live a lush Laser Life? I submit that the dream of a space program wise to the intersections of power and privilege cannot be deferred.
628 Municipal Engineering | Parking Lot Blues : ESG
Parking Lot Blues Indeed! Donald Shoup well documents the "High Cost of Free Parking" [Not owned by the Free Library of Philadelphia, you'll need to request via Interlibrary Loan]. We're confident that Planning Departments and Zoning Codes of the future will help reverse the harmful effects of auto dominance in the future.
629 Space Flight | Rocket Number 9 : Sun Ra
Saturn's native son, Sun Ra, probably thought along Afro-Futurist lines when he settled in Philadelphia to fight evil across the universe. American tax dollars no longer fund rocketry of the peaceful kind. If the private efforts of the Arkestra could allow them to travel the intergalactic space ways, will other private-sector space endeavors be able to take the rest of along?
641 Food & drink | Nutrition : The Dead Milkmen
Without Sinclair's Jungle, would we have the public food safety net that we have now? Without Pollan would we have the skepticism necessary to over come some of its tenancies toward Nutritionism?
700 Arts & recreation
796 Athletic & outdoor sports & games | If You Own the Washington Redskins, You're a Cock : Atom & His Package
The use of public dollars to fund stadiums has led to much debate. Philadelphia's own Atom & His Package reminds us that it's possible to like sports, but not like what owners do when promoting a "brand" with public dollars in municipally built stadiums.
811 American poetry in English | To a Locomotive (Walt Whitman) | Ed Begley
Despite mythical beginnings as private enterprise, the railroads have always depended on some level of public support or regulation. Walt Whitman's "To a Locomotive" evokes all of the majesty of movement on rails.
900 History & geography
917 Geography of & travel in North America | This Land is Your Land : Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
Woody Guthrie may have penned this song, but Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings take it where it needs to go. The care of each other and the care of this land are noble enough reasons to feel proud of paying your taxes.
999 Extraterrestrial worlds | Planet Rock : Afrika Bambaataa & the Soul Sonic Force
The NASA launched Kepler Space Telescope has gathered evidence of thousands of planets beyond our solar system. Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force were the first to describe the features of Planet Rock, which surely must inhabit the Goldilocks Zone where the perfect beat can thrive.
What songs do you think of when you think of taxes? Let us know in the comments. But please, no "Taxman" from the Beatles. That's basically the free square of tax song bingo.
*Caption: Paul Revere (ca. 1770). "The Bloody Massacre Perpetrated in King Street Boston on March 5th 1770 by a Party of the 29th Regt." Free Library of Philadelphia Rare Books Department. ELK0017701.