Since waking at 3am today, I’ve read three days worth of our local paper, April’s edition of O, and done a great job of not reading the book I’m supposed to be reading. As a result, I’ve been preoccupied by something that used to happen frequently when I was part of the working world; things and issues of the day connected. No matter what I read, or what conversation I had, at some point, ideas converged whether they were supposed to or not. You know, the lights are on and someone is finally home. The point is, it happens rarely now. My brain has relaxed and now gets to think about what it wants, so it meanders everywhere, taking in often unrelated pieces of information that could be useful, but will most likely not synthesize into earth shattering points of lucidity.
You wouldn’t think that reading pieces about the Imus fallout — some better than others — Internet spawned narcissism, “Who pays what on TAX DAY,” or a pathetic letter to the editor of O grousing about “class privilege” regarding the actions of women who will do anything to conceive a child, would have anything to do with one another, but they must. I can feel the telltale signs of defensive belligerence on low burn right now, so after reading the post in Wonderland or Not today, I’ve decided that the only way to sort it out is to write. Not complain, or snark, or whine. Just express myself about something that has been on my mind for a very long time. This would be an excellent place to stop reading if you don’t want to delve into my dark side.
No, this isn’t my family, but it could be.
We do have a very similar picture of my grandmother with my mother sitting on the front of an old car. My grandmother was an Okie with a third grade education who came to California during the Dust Bowl. I think she picked peaches for 25 cents a day. Although my mother did graduate from high school and years later trained to be a dental assistant, my family never really had much when I was growing up. She married and divorced young and worked late into the evening as a cocktail lounge waitress to feed and clothe my brother, sister, and myself until she met our stepfather. At that point, she was able to stop working for a few years. We wore simple, home-made clothes, got a pair of shoes in September when school started, and then another in the spring when we had worn the first pair out and they became our play shoes. We ate simple, but good food, and got to school on time every day with our lunches in hand. The only thing we didn’t have to do is walk to school bare-footed 40 miles in the snow like my step-father said he had. In Fresno. Right.
Somehow, my mom managed to keep us from even considering we were poor. It seemed like we had everything we were supposed to have. She ingrained in my brother, sister, and myself, that if we worked hard, got a good job, and an education, we could have things in life. So, that’s what we’ve done, each in our own way. And we have continued to do that so that our children understand it is important for them to do it as well. People don’t give you things. You work for what you have in life. Money doesn’t grow on trees or come in the mail. Ever.
Having said that, it seems that even with my recent separation from the workforce of America, my small family is classified as being in the top 10% of incomes in the U.S. Without my income. Having that particular label slapped on us means that along with the rest of the 10%, we are paying 70% of all federal income taxes. I’m not one who jumps at doing the math, but something is clearly wrong here, and I am not one of those who, according to Scott Hodge, “applaud the fact that millions of low-and-middle-income families pay no income taxes.” I know. I’m not supposed to say that out loud.
What are the remaining 90% of wage-earners doing while only paying 30% of the taxes?
I am sick of being stereotyped as belonging to a group that is able to “circumvent the system to avoid paying” our share when so many others–MANY–flip the bird to the government and not pay at all.
Let’s go back to my upbringing: single mother, three kids, very frugal life. If we couldn’t afford it, we didn’t get it. And we couldn’t afford a lot of things. Nevertheless, I am recognized by others in society as being entitled. I have what others don’t. It. You know, stuff. It fell out of the sky, and I danced over to it in my Manolo Blahniks and swooped it up effortlessly, while on my way to Rio for the third time this year. Never worked a day in my life for it. Right. It makes me seriously angry. It’s not politically correct to be an educator and have anger management issues with this concept, so I’ve had a cork in my opinionated mouth for a very long time.
When you’re a brand-new, wet-behind-the ears educator in this country, you usually begin your tenure in schools where there are many, many students whose families are living below the poverty line. Far Below. What you don’t readily understand, is that you are perceived as being different by them. One, because you are. You’re most likely a white female from a middle class family. But you also represent the “haves” in the world. So you can also be perceived as one who “can’t relate” or “doesn’t understand” your students. Not really. That blonde hair you paid for and those blue eyes have never seen pain. They’ve never suffered, had to learn tolerance, and can’t possibly know what it’s like to be poor, or from a family who for generations has never had anything. Like mine. If anyone looked at my teeth, they’d know. I’m a dentist’s dream.
But once you’ve left the world of have nots, it doesn’t matter where you came from or what you didn’t have once upon a time. And there’s no pathetic line for you to stand in to have someone place a ridiculous gold star on your shirt for your accomplishments when you’re done playing the game. Because when you’re entitled, you’re supposed to be above it all. In fact, I’ve figured out that some people who have nice incomes would rather die than have others know they came from far less than modest backgrounds.
Suck it up and just pay the taxes, regardless of whether others do or don’t. Regardless of what others think of you or aren’t. Regardless of whether once upon a time you were able to get off your rear end and learn, grow, and become something. Anything other than an individual who does everything in his capacity to hold back those who are trying to escape their misery-loves-company living conditions and better themselves.
I like the way that Earl Nightingale puts it. The “simple yet elusive difference” between the Haves and the Have Nots is making the decision to go after what you want. If more people followed his advice instead of wallowing in their self-inflicted oppression, there would be more people to pay more taxes and far fewer people on bandwagons about this grand cause.
And to the woman who had an issue in O about women who can’t conceive a child and “afford to blow thousands of dollars on fertility treatments,” Get over yourself. It’s their money, and their lives. They worked for it, so get to spend it the way they want. It isn’t a crime to work for, have, and spend money.
Or, unfortunately, pay taxes.