There is no cross traffic. You’re sitting at a red light, dutifully obeying the law by keeping your vehicle motionless. You can see five blocks to your left, four blocks to the right. It’s an unimpeded view. There is no cross traffic.

There is no cross traffic. You’re sitting at a red light, dutifully obeying the law by keeping your vehicle motionless. You can see five blocks to your left, four blocks to the right. It’s an unimpeded view. There is no cross traffic.


You watch as the cross-street light turns yellow, then red.


"Finally," you think to yourself. But no, then the left-turn arrow lights up. There are no cars waiting to turn.


When the light turns green, you take out your frustration on the gas pedal. Then the stoplight at the top of the hill turns yellow two blocks before you get there. Wash, rinse, repeat.


Welcome to the time tax.


Whenever politicians talk about raising taxes, there’s a predictable outrage. We’re very particular about our money. None of us likes when the government comes calling, needing more cash to fund some program with perverse incentives or cut a foreign aid check to the warlord of the month.


But I’ve never understood why we rarely raise our hackles when Big Brother steals our time. It is, after all, the far more valuable of the two resources. And it’s probably easier to do something about.


Write your congressman about taxes, and some poor intern will send you a mad-libs response that says, "Thank you so much for your concern about TAXES. I, too, think that TAXES are vitally important to the future of this great nation. That’s why I’m working hard each and every day to address your issue, just like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and Captain America would have wanted."


It’s not because your congressman is a bad person or even because he’s a bad congressman. It’s because he knows he can’t lower your taxes any easier than he can change the facial expression on the Statue of Liberty. The federal government, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse, just doesn’t work that way.


But unlike monetary taxes, the time tax often is levied by governments that are closer to home and more able to make changes. That stoplight down the street that should really be a yield sign is probably controlled by the city, or at worst, the state. Why don’t we ask our representatives to change it?


As a rule, politicians get letters and phone calls from people who want the ratchet of regulations tightened, not loosened. And as a related rule, people tend to complain only about big ticket items likes wars and income taxes and pollution. If a hundred people lose five minutes every morning at a poorly timed stoplight, that’s more than eight hours lost to the time tax. But we seldom take the time to protest.


It shouldn’t be that way. Local government officials and state representatives are far more able to affect change than national representatives. But they can’t time those stoplights if they don’t know there’s a problem.


The time tax is invisible, meaning it’s easy to ignore. It doesn’t appear as a deduction on your pay stub, but it still costs you. We need to give it a face.


NATE STRAUCH is a reporter at the Herald Democrat. Email him at nstrauch@heralddemocrat. com.