Often times, as I look back over the past 40 or so years of my life and what has happened to tax policies across our large and wonderful country, I’m struck by the similarities between taxes for adults and homework for kids. I know, it’s a leap, but then the more you noodle on it the more the likeness becomes clear.
From the first day of schooling when we were kids, we were constantly made aware of the simple and usually dependable relationship between our grades and how well we did our homework. It was the foundation of our education, and our success (or failure) depending on how well we accepted that specific truth. All through the first 12 years of my education, I was a middling student at best, and landed smack dab in the middle of my graduating class. I accomplished this by doing as little homework as possible. At the time, I thought I was smarter than everyone else and was above doing homework. I now know I was wrong. On both counts.
When I finally got around to college three years after graduating high school, I had grown up a lot. By that time, I knew that a) I had never been a good student in the first place, and b) I was going to have to do the work to make the grades I needed to be successful. Two and one-half years after enrolling at NC State, I graduated Cum Laude with a degree in English and a great deal of pride. Not only that, but I knew that actually doing the homework and assignments had made me a better student and person.
So how does that parable relate to taxes? Simply put, our country and its systems, foundations, and policies are all our “grade.” Wealth and the creation of wealth is but one of our grades, and not nearly the most important. How we take care of our poor, our elderly, our infrastructure, and our legacy are all our other grades. And how we pay for these grades is not with best wishes or hopes (hope is not a strategy), but with taxes– taxes being the real amount required by our costly habits (the most expensive military in the world) and our inevitable responsibilities (health care for all, infrastructure, education). And just like homework, we can’t pick and choose. We have to pay (do) it all. Just because we believe in a strong military (Math, let’s call it) but not taking care of the poor (let’s call this English), doesn’t mean we can’t just do our Math homework. Rather, we have to study English, too. We can’t pick and choose.
No one on the Right that I have ever known thought we should cut military spending. In their view, for the most part, there’s no such things as too much military spending. I vehemently disagree, but I’m in support of them because I understand their love of Math (military). I detested it, but I studied it because it was part of how one graduated. But when it comes to spending on the poor (English), my conservative friends think that a penny is too much (that may be a bit harsh, but not very), whereas I never get tired of it. I have always loved the written word and the study of it, just as I know we have to take care of all citizens. Not just my wealthy country club friends.
But the net is that we have to do it all. We have to study all of the subjects and we have to pay all the taxes. We have to have a strong military and take care of the poor and infrastructure and health care for all. Homework is like taxes; we have to do (pay) it all. Otherwise, we are as naive as I once was in thinking we can make good grades and graduate with honors without doing homework. Thankfully, I learned my lesson before it was too late. It’s time for America to decide if, as a county, we will continue to be foolish and think we can maintain the image and reality of being the best country in the history of mankind without paying all of our taxes.