Stingers and Barbs

By Richard Wagner | Garden of Knowledge

Aug 08

It seems to me that one of the major problems with our current system is that all of our conversations contain stingers and barbs.  There is little effort made to understand competing perspectives or to address the outstanding issues with civility.

The bottom 50% really don’t pay federal income taxes.  I think that is an issue.  This is a big number and it is ridiculous with implications for our election systems.

In contrast, the top 1% pay a lot.  And the commentators and folks on the “left” keep talking about their “fair share” like that is an absolute number.  Like the bottom 50% wouldn’t choke and scream on similar percentages.  Like the use of governmental powers to extract money from those envied while those envying do not pay a dime of federal income taxes.  They do not care what “the Rich” pay.  Neither do they care about “fair share” so long as it does not take from them.  These are also issues.

Nobody likes to pay taxes. Everybody wants the other guy to pay them.  What to do?

I wonder if we can begin with some kind words.

Perhaps we could start with a simple “Thank you” to those in the top 50% who do pay federal income taxes.  Maybe even put a cherry on top for those in the top 1% (or ten percent, depending on perspective) who carry an extraordinary load percentage wise.

Then, maybe we could go to conversations that forgo what has become the obligatory demonizing of “the Rich.” This could even include conversations that tie productivity and wealth building with financial success and being in the fortunate position of paying lots and lots of taxes because the taxpayer earned lots and lots of income.  We could even discuss how wealth building impacts the entire country.  Maybe we could remind folks that someone had to make someone else happy in order to get them to fork over their cash.  I know the old saw “if it bleeds it leads” but the cynicism about “the Rich” is getting costly for everybody.

For example, I have seen letter writers to national media routinely accuse productive entrepreneurs of “theft” as if above average incomes are ill-gotten.  Such claims ought not be allowed stand unchallenged.

By the same token, the bottom 50% often endure unenviable lives.  There are reasons they are in the bottom 50% and many would have stopped most folks in their tracks.  A little compassion is in order, even if we need to ease back on entitlements.  Ranging from poor choices, to disease, to unfortunate family circumstances, to failing to adapt to the demands of our times, to bad habits and self-destruction, who knows why many fail to thrive in our money based systems? However, I do know that financial success generally requires both mental and physical health.  It is not that easy to occupy the bottom 50%.  Why do we then make our arguments so personal?

Remember who can often be found in that bottom 50%: the elderly, the young, the sick and the lame, the marginalized, etc..  Youth is self-curing.  The other conditions, maybe not so much.  Can we have meaningful, thoughtful and compassionate conversations about these without questioning the motives of others?

I think common civility is a big deal in these conversations.  We need to understand money and its demands on individuals as well as its demands on our government.

So, if you pay a lot in federal income taxes, thank you.  If you pay no federal income taxes, I am generally sorry for those of your circumstances that are beyond your control and suggest you work on those that are not.

Now, can we recognize that our financial system is complex and demands much from all of us?

Dick Wagner

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