I have spent the past few days doing the same thing I imagine many of you have been doing. Between bouts of hiding under my desk and practicing for a nuclear hit, I have been obsessively following the machinations of our elected officials as they tussle over tax reform.
I’ve read numerous articles and contemplated any number of graphs and charts.
I’ve read about who will benefit from tax cuts and who will not. I’ve pored over information about private jet ownership, passing down of wealth within families, explanations of “trickle down” economics and the need for large corporations to feel encouraged to reinvest their wealth here in our country.
I’ve also been reading about the possible reverse of the health care mandate and the belief that hard rock mining companies should no longer be held accountable for polluting our environment by the EPA.
At the same time, Puerto Rico still doesn’t have a working power grid, huge numbers of people have requested massive amounts of money from FEMA after ruinous hurricanes, and we are shopping for the holidays.
Amidst all this, the question that seems to be most on our minds, at least according to the articles, charts and graphs seems to be…
What’s in it for me?
What’s going to happen to my taxes?
Will I save any money?
These are important questions for each of us. Of course we all want to keep some extra money each year. Paying taxes is painful and watching hard-earned money leave our control to support government programs feels terrible every April.
But perhaps we need to refocus our perspective.
I hate the feeling of paying taxes as much as anyone. But taxes are not a punishment. Taxes do not exist to rob us of what we deserve.
Instead they support important programs that enable us to function and exist as a community. When we pay taxes we are supportive neighbors.
By contributing a share of our earnings to our society we all benefit.
My taxes enable your child to get a good education.
Your taxes enable me to drive safely on well-maintained roads.
We have power, water and security.
We contribute to our neighborhoods and in return we receive medical treatment when unexpected ailments occur. Our taxes help when we get sick, when our children get sick, when our parents get sick.
We all benefit every day. And sure, sometimes our money is spent in ways we may not agree with. So let’s debate that.
Let’s talk about how much money the military needs, or education, or health care. Let’s have passionate discussions about the size of government and environmental issues.
These discussions are what make us who we are as a country. We are a massive, heaving, contentious diverse population of individuals. Of course we disagree.
So let’s argue and disagree, but at the same time lets recognize the importance of contributing, both in opinions and in cash.
The graphs and the charts, the articles and the information about who will get tax breaks is important to each of us individually.
But we are also a community. We need to think about each other. We need to think about families coping with illness even if our family members do not have that illness.
We need to think about hunger even if we ourselves are not hungry.
We need to think about healthcare even if we ourselves are currently healthy.
We need to think beyond our own individual numbers.
It is true that paying taxes is painful and I’m sure every one of us would rather keep more money for ourselves. But instead of thinking about fuller wallets lets also take time to think of the needs of our neighbors. All of our neighbors.
And then, if we are ever in need, they can think about us as well.