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In honor of tax day

Op-ed Roanoke Times

In honor of tax day

Deborah Conner
Roanoke Times May 21, 2009

I'm almost finished with Ken Follett's World Without End, a tale about England in the 1300s, the struggle to live and build a world one can live in. It was people's struggles to create and define community that brought us here, and like any dip into history, it makes one aware of how our prejudices, hopes and laws were shaped.

It does a great job of making sense about why we have taxes and make regulations. Want to cross my street? Ride down my road? Then pay the toll, subject yourself to my mood and mercy. Know your place, and enter at your own risk.

Would we ever want to go back to that world? If you think so, it's because you haven't imagined it. Only ignorance would court such disorder, would give up the progress bought with the blood, trials and work that brought us here.

Looking back makes clear that separation of church and state protects religion, that equal education is the backbone of a democracy.

If you don't think schools do a good job, get involved with helping. You'll understand that schools are now asked to do the work of parents. Because Mom isn't home anymore. Even for infants.

She's out working to supplement family income so that children can have the necessities that one paycheck used to afford. "The rich get richer and the poor get poorer," the old song goes, and over the past generation, America has experienced the greatest income inequality in the rich world.

As for paying taxes (of which we pay the lowest rate in 30 years), is that socialism? Or is it more like insurance, being responsible by creating stability and fostering the best potential for growth? The health to withstand epidemics? The reserves to rebuild after natural disasters?

I read comments like this on the Internet:

"All this talk about taxing big businesses is nothing more than (Obama's) way to get to the middle class. You see it's a downward spiral effect. Who's giving you that paycheck? Yeah, that's what I thought."

"Giving" you the paycheck? You mean, pay for work is a handout?

Think. Who makes this money for "big business"? Who does the work, keeps things going, figures things out at the actual physical level? Who makes it so the boss, company, stockholder get paid? Well, the workers. And happy they are to do so if they can live on their wage, obtaining the food, clothing and shelter to care for their kids. Happy they are to commit decades to a company that responds fairly to them.

A strong, healthy, well-educated workforce is essential to any business.

Remember Joe the Plumber? He wants to expand and grow his business, and worries he'll have to pay more taxes once he makes over $250,000 -- which more than 90 percent of small business owners don't. But if Joe wants to expand, he has to hire workers. What kind of workers does he want? Healthy, educated workers; people he can trust to do the work.

Naturally, he wants his crew to get to work on time. So he, as well as they, depend on good transportation. He wants and good health care delivery so that his workers can come to work strong, giving their best. Smart workers, well-schooled workers. The best he can afford.

This is what taxes are about. Making things run, making the good workers good so they can make wealth.

It makes sense that the more wealth a company makes, the more it depends on all the things taxes go to pay for.

We share the wealth so we all can grow -- because, as a business, you need people who are able to pay you for your services (you and your worker, that is; the people who actually go out and do the work).

Socialism? Where? This is foundational, defining to whatever our country has been. To what made it grow. Is that socialism? Working together to meet our needs as a nation? What a big umbrella of a word you make it.

You know, money isn't equal really -- not in real life. What's $1,000 to someone making $30,000 a year? What's it to someone making 10 times that? It's all relative, all changing, based on things that change.

We're so disconnected from our needs, from seeing what shapes our world. I hope most of all that we connect with it again, plan and envision together. That's the strength of a community, a nation. a whole planet.

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