Come to Turbo Tax, Pay Extra for Period Products

 By Amy Bobeda.

“In the state of Idaho, tampons are taxed as a luxury item. Consumers can purchase a chainsaw tax-free. Once hatched, larvae of the mountain pine beetle grow like grains of rice to carve their way through a tree’s soft tissue until it is overwhelmed.” 

Blossom by Manhei Chan.

The day they sprayed the trees for mountain pine beetles, the feds devoured my savings account. In the tale of the Star Money, there is a pious girl who has nothing more but the clothes she’s wearing and a bit of bread. A commercial plays every hour: A man laughs, holding his child. Come to Turbo Tax a bold sanserif font lights up the screen. And Don’t Do Your Taxes.


In The Matter with Things, the psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist identifies money as a “token system.” By this, he means money begins as a concrete object, transforms into virtual transactions, and returns to a concrete object. The anthropologist David Graeber notes, “that even once money did exist, it was not used as a medium of exchange for minor transactions, but rather as a means of keeping track of transactions made on credit.”


The mountain pine beetle grows one-quarter inch long and flies from June to September, burrowing under the bark of pine and spruce to lay its eggs. In Star Money, the girl with only the clothes she’s wearing and a bit of bread encounters a hungry man. She feeds him the bread. In the Turbo Tax commercial, the actors can’t deduct their agents’ commissions, headshot fees, or audition haircuts. A mountain pine beetle infestation cannot be stopped, only prevented.


Graeber notes a historical record of two kinds of money: “one, a common long-distance trade item, the other, a common subsistence item—cattle, grain—that’s stockpiled, but never traded.” In the state of Idaho, tampons are taxed as a luxury item. Consumers can purchase a chainsaw tax-free. Once hatched, larvae of the mountain pine beetle grow like grains of rice to carve their way through a tree’s soft tissue until it is overwhelmed. The girl with only the clothes she’s wearing encounters a child with a cold head and gives her hat away.


The classicist Richard Seaford notes that coinage developed from a metal of high value (gold and silver) and had a higher value as a coin (cast, stamped, hammered). While the development of coinage or payment in iron ingots required a visible, material exchange, this extra value placed on a well-stamped coin became the public trust in a currency’s value—fiduciarity. A city’s own coin was always well and good to pay taxes; a debased coin (mixed with other metals) often lost value overseas. The Idaho House Bill 313 proposed free menstrual product dispensers in public middle and high school bathrooms for a startup cost of $435,000 dollars and about $3.50 per student to keep dispensers stocked year-round. The girl with only the clothes she’s wearing meets another child in the freezing cold and gives him her coat. Budget analysts project Idaho will have a $1.4 billion tax revenue surplus at the end of the fiscal year.


A child asks the girl with only the clothes she’s wearing for her frock. It’s starting to get dark. She gives her frock away. As of 2022, 22 states tax menstrual products from 4-7%. The week the feds devoured my savings account the Silicon Valley Bank collapsed—the largest bank collapse since 2008, 90% of their deposits were not FDIC insured. “Bronze coins could not be used forever;” Graeber writes. “If one debased the coinage, inflation would eventually set in. It was as if there was a tension there, between the will of the community and the physical nature of the object itself.” In the pitch-black forest, the girl with only the shirt she’s wearing meets another child. The child begs for her shirt. The girl takes it off and hands it over.


When the Sumerian goddess Inanna goes to the Underworld to visit her sister, she loses all her clothes. One-by-one layers come off. These layers are also her wisdom and gifts. Like a Roman coin, they hold two values. In the darkness of the Underworld, naked Inanna is transformed into a slab of bloody meat for three days. In Idaho, 3-4 students report missing a class or a day of school because they lack period products. In the United States, 23% of middle and high school students can’t afford tampons, pads, or menstrual cups.


Silicon Valley Bank was conceived in the early 1980s over a game of poker. A leader in the tech and California wine industries the reputation and capital of the industry trailblazer collapsed in a matter of days at a loss of $1.8 billion dollars. The girl in the forest is cold. Inanna is a piece of meat. There is no concrete answer to the number of mountain pine beetles it takes to kill a tree.


Arborists suggest spraying a tree until it is saturated, at least 35 feet high, or until the tree is less than 5” in diameter. “A tree,” Graeber writes, “is a living thing. It only becomes ‘wood’ when we begin to think about all the other things you could carve out of it. And of course, you can carve a piece of wood into almost any­ thing.”


It’s cold in the forest. It’s cold in the Underworld. It’s cold in March when the feds devour my savings account. It rains an atmospheric river over the panic and chaos of the collapsing bank. It was Aristotle who suggested earning interest is amoral because money is intended for trade not to reproduce asexually with itself. It takes as few as 10 mountain pine beetles to infest a tree. Infestation is more likely after drought. A federal bill, The Pink Tax Repeal Act has been introduced several times but never passed.


The naked girl in the forest looks to the sky. Stars fall upon her. They are nothing but star-shaped money. Two flies made from clay found under a fingernail fly into the Underworld to rescue the goddess. Inanna transforms back into a woman. The girl grows a fine linen shirt upon her breasts. Inanna returns from the Underworld and sends her husband in her place. “Let’s solve this problem with policy,” the founder of the Idaho Period Project says. The girl takes the star-shaped coins and is rich for the rest of her days. “It’s very much a shame that that bank is gone,” a professor at San Jose State says. “Avoid standing, lying under, and approaching sprayed trees for 24 hours,” the HOA says. The only certainty after death and taxes: a menstruator always returns from the Underworld naked and rich with stars to barter for period products.

The Blood Pudding – August 1, 2023

Amy is writing about fairytales and public policy every day until something changes. She holds an MFA from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics where she serves as director of the Naropa Writing Center and teachers pedagogy and processed-based art. She’s the author of Red Memory (FlowerSong Press), What Bird Are You? (Finishing Line Press), mi sin manitos (Ethel Press), forthcoming: Self-Guilded Walking Tours (ghost city summer series), and a forthcoming project from Spuytin Duyvil. She’s on Twitter @amybobeda & @everystoryisamenstrualstory on Instagram.

Artwork: You can find more about Manheim Chan here.