Category Archives: Russell B. Long

Don’t Tax You. Don’t Tax Me. Tax That Fellow Behind the Tree

Russell B. Long? Anonymous?

long05Dear Quote Investigator: It’s tax time again in the U.S., and I recently heard a humorous rhyming verse on this topic:

Don’t tax you. Don’t tax me. Tax the guy behind the tree.

Do you know who originally said this?

Quote Investigator: The earliest close match for this verse located by QI appeared in a “Money” magazine article in July 1973 titled “Congress Tackles the Income Tax”. The words were credited to Russell B. Long who was a legislator from Louisiana: 1

“Most people have the same philosophy about taxes,” says Senator Russell B. Long, who has heard all the variations during seven years as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which handles tax legislation. Long puts that universal theme to verse:

Don’t tax you,
Don’t tax me,
Tax that fellow behind the tree.

This is the earliest citation for the full tripartite expression located by QI; however, other versions were in circulation by the 1930s, and the expression evolved over a period of decades.

In March 1932 “Collier’s Weekly” ran an article titled “Tax Everyone But Me” which included an instance starting with “Congress! Congress! Don’t tax me” instead of the sing-song: “Don’t tax you. Don’t tax me”. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2

At the end of the year, and again at the opening of 1932, the hotel rooms and lobbies of Washington were crowded and swarming with citizens who had come to play, in paraphrased adult form, an old game of their childhood:

Congress! Congress! Don’t tax me,
Tax that fellow behind the tree.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1973 July, Money, “Congress Tackles the Income Tax” by William B. Mead, Start Page 55, Quote page 55, Time Inc., Chicago and New York. (Verified on paper)
  2. 1932 March 26, Collier’s Weekly, “Tax Everyone But Me” by William G. Shepherd, Start Page 12, Quote Page 12, Column 1, P.F. Collier, New York. (Unz)