September 10, 2008

What's enough?

One rescued diary on dkos really spoke to me today: I am a rich liberal

I am constantly reminded of how extremely lucky I am to make the money I make, especially without a bachelor's degree. I am absolutely, positively RICH compared to a majority of Americans. I make more than the national family median in 2005 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Household_income_in_the_United_States). I, as a single woman, am better off than more than half the families in this country. I am also, unlike a majority of Americans, 100% debt free, excepting my mortgage. Why? Because I make enough money to pay my bills. This puts me in a unique position to give more to my community, to my family and friends, toward infrastructure, roads, social programs, scientific development, political causes, whatever floats my liberal boat, than most of the people I know, or meet on a daily basis, people who can barely make ends meet because they're supporting themselves and their children on less often MUCH less than I make. Here's the kicker, and I hope this makes you conservatives groan: I am absolutely willing to pay more taxes. As far as I know, I am rich. TAX ME. I will adjust. I am more than willing to get by on less for the cause of providing basic services, education, health care, etc., to every American. I get pissed when my tax dollars are wasted by either party, and that's an overwhelmingly multifaceted can of worms we can explore until doomsday, but the bottom line is, I believe my tax dollars should provide a basic groundwork for every American that will (if we hold our legislators accountable) allow all of us the opportunity to prosper.

Here's the comment I left.

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This is a great diary about a discussion I have with some of my friends as well.

I think for some people, there is almost a pathological fear of not having enough. I've got one friend who is doing quite well and is progressive on everything but taxes. He is extremely upset about paying taxes, but I think it comes with his personal fears of not having enough. We've talked about what would it take for him to have enough to give up his fear. This problem leaks into his marriage because he can't stand the thought of spending money on things like turning up the heat past 62 degrees in deep winter when people come to stay, because it is frivolous. It drives his wife nuts, and I know it would drive me nuts as well. Nevertheless, he has one of the kindest hearts and he would give me the shirt off his back or take me or my family or others he cares about in if we needed the help, but money is his personal demon. I don't know how many people in our society are like this, but know there are more than a few. Somehow, their fears of being left without any safety net (based on their own horded cash) drives their sense of insecurity and anxiety. I don't think of him being selfish, just deeply unhappy in a way I don't have a way to touch.

Somehow we need to find language that helps break the connection between taxes and the sense of loss, and that makes the case for taxes and our shared investment for our communities, our shared obligations and our future. This diary is a very nice start on that conversation.

Posted by Mary at September 10, 2008 11:03 PM | Philosophy | Technorati links |
Comments

Your friend has some sort of phobia about paying taxes, but his compulsiveness differs from the actions of the very, very rich in this country, who can clearly afford to live well, and would continue to live well if they paid ten times what they are currently paying in taxes.

I think that for those people, it's not a phobia of paying taxes (which they of course hate to do), but a nagging fear that if they don't grab as much as they can, someone else will grab it from them. Others, perhaps, are deluded into thinking that their ability to earn huge amounts of money trumps all other skills, so much so that they believe they have the right to tell others how to live. It's the kind of greed that Thucydides wrote about 2500 years ago, the kind that destroyed Athens and Rome and pretty much every nation that had visions of global domination.

I don't begrudge your friend his money, I don't begrudge it to anyone really, whether I think they've earned it or not: great wealth brings with it problems of its own. I would be happy to just have a good job and support myself and be happy in the work that I do and the life that I lead, and know that I can retire in peace.

But there are some who obsess that they haven't yet found a way to squeeze even a few more dollars out of me: they aren't content with what they have, they will never be content, and they will do everything they can to make my life, and yours, and everyone else's, miserable just to have a little more for themselves.

Your friend's obsession with taxes isn't the problem. This country's obsession with greed is.

Posted by: Joe Vecchio at September 13, 2008 09:49 AM