We Interrupt This Blog…, Part I: Taxes

Though most of my work is focused on the Atrisco neighborhood where I live, sometimes the environment around Atrisco grows so hostile that I feel compelled to depart from this blog’s regular topics of writing, life, family, community, and faith in order to report and reflect on local, state and national politics.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about taxes, immigration, collective bargaining, social security and how they all fit together. Let me preface this series of blog posts by saying that I am no expert in any of these fields. I also realize that, if you are reading this, it is probably because you agree with me. But, just as this blog has helped me process life after the fire, as well as reestablish a writing community and routine, I am hopeful that it can also be a forum in which we exchange ideas about the role of government.

Governor Susana Martinez and the New Mexico Legislature went into this year’s legislative session looking to fill a $200 million to $300 million budget shortfall. With Martinez vowing to veto any tax increase legislation, this left only cuts.

When you can’t make ends meet at home, you do two things: cut back and raise money. Maybe you stop eating out and cancel the cable bill. At some point, you can no longer slash your way through your household budget. You have to eat, keep the lights and heat going, get to and from work, and get the kids to and from school. When I was growing up, my mother, the elementary school teacher (you know, those government fat cats with their long summers and bloated retirement plans?*), taught through the summer to supplement our household income. My dad did taxes on top of his job at Deming Electronics. My brothers had paper routes. I worked at McDonald’s. We rarely ate out. We bought our clothes on sale. Our cars were purchased used. Our family vacations were to campsites or the homes of relatives. Even with all the ways we tried to live simply, we still had to create revenue in order to make ends meet.

Why can’t our state and national governments do the same? Why is it unheard of to ask the wealthiest corporations and individuals to give back to the economy that created the very conditions that enabled them to amass such great wealth in the first place?

The problem is greed.

According to the latest Fidelity® Millionaire Outlook, Fidelity® Investments’ annual survey of 1,000 millionaire households, forty-two percent of millionaires do not feel wealthy and will not feel wealthy until they have more than seven million dollars.

Seven million dollars! Really? Joe Millionaire in that forty-two percent group doesn’t feel wealthy with two or three or even five million dollars? I am sure that among this group of millionaires, there are many, perhaps even a majority, who give generously to charitable organizations. I am sure that Joe Millionaire feeds the hungry, shelters the homeless, puts books and supplies in the hands of school children. But how would it be if that forty-two percent felt wealthy with, say, five million? And just for argument’s sake, let’s suppose that the other two million went to taxes which would then be pumped back into the economy to do things like feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and put books and supplies in the hands of school children. What if we did not have to rely on Joe having a good year, or feeling generous or wealthy enough to give to his favorite charitable organizations? What if we lived in a society that honored the whole instead of the few at the very top?

How do we create that society? I don’t know how to legislate compassion.

This is where you come in. Please comment. I am curious to hear your thoughts on the role of government in civil society. I would especially like to hear from those of you who rely upon Social Security, Medicare, or Veteran’s benefits in order to survive.

Coming Tuesday, March 29: The I-Word

*Tune in Tuesday, April 5 for Teachers, Union Members and Other Fat-Cat Thugs

Published in: on March 22, 2011 at 9:43 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Friend: Spot on. I love and look forward to your blog posts. Mostly because I can usually count on you to make me laugh. I think the departure into the realm of politics is appropriate AND it’s needed. Really. Not enough commentary out there. If your next post “I” is immigration, I may suggest you submit to the paper. Without even seeing it, I know it’s great. Neri

  2. My hope is that we can transform the K-12 curriculum (as well as the media) from celebrating Heroes and Wars, promoting a distorted history in the name of patriotism, promoting the myth of meritocracy, and adhering to the notion that an unchecked system of capitalism works to the benefits of all. Critical thinking has been touted as a buzz word of education for decades, but in reality, K-12 students are still spoon fed the same myths year after year. It is imperative that 21st Century schools teach critical thinking so that students can learn to think for themselves and learn to find credible sources of evidence to inform their views. At the same time, schools should be teaching compassion, social responsibility, and a sense of community all in the name of character education and positive school culture. Let’s not subject our children to fatalistic cynicism! Community service should be a requirement for every level of public education. Maybe this will instill in children from an early age that they can get along with very little and find happiness in relationships rather than material wealth. They should also be reminded that wealth does not bring happiness. Maybe part of their community service can be to the wealthy individuals who suffer from divorce, substance abuse, depression, and loneliness. K-12 education also is not a bad place to start teaching economics and the effects of the growing divide between the rich and the poor in our society.

  3. Like you, I’m dismayed at the blatancy of greed’s insatiable consumption of our country & our state’s resources and the suffering that it’s bringing to those who were already struggling to get by. Asking for leader to do the “right” thing hasn’t proven effective. Maybe people will have to change the leaders? Or stop asking and insist?

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