Occasional politics

A Simple Parable

(To help Conservative Republicans come closer to understanding the obvious.)

Aren’t we glad the American people are such suckers!

Bob Smith worked for the American Widget Co. (AWC) his whole life. “I’m a career American,” Bob always said.

During the boom years a while back, Bob’s income rose steadily. Bob bought for his wife Betty and their four little Smiths a bigger house, a nicer car, took summer holidays at a the shore. Life was just fine for Bob Smith and AWC.

Then came the time AWC told Bob they were going to have to cut his salary by 25% so they could use that money to expand toward future enhanced profitability. This didn’t worry Bob, he was sure that AWC would use the money they kept back from his salary to grow and lead to more security and a higher future income for him when the good times returned. He bet his salary would double when that happened.

With the promise of good times ahead when AWC used Bob’s salary rebate to expand the firm, Bob decided that they would take the kids to Disneyworld, and not just for a weekend, but for the whole month. In fact, Bob was so confident that AWC would increase profitability with his salary kickback that he surprised the family with a second vacation that year — a month at Disneyland.

Then AWC asked Bob to give back another 25% of his salary, explaining that the extra money would allow for faster expansion and quicker prosperity for all, and then AWC would be able to more than double Bob’s previous salary.

With that great prospect, Bob and Betty painted the house, spruced up the landscaping, got that second car Betty wanted. “It’s sure a good thing god invented credit,”Betty always said.

Pretty soon, the Smiths owed more money than they would ever be able to pay back, unless AWC’s predictions came true and they were able to at least get back to the level before the salary cuts were mandated.

Instead, AWC informed Bob that it would be necessary to cut his income a little more. It would be all right if Bob just stopped spending.

Soon enough, the Smith family let their beautiful lawn go to seed, let the paint peel away, put the second car up on blocks in the yard when they couldn’t replace the tires. The kids had to give up their extracurricular activities, and after a while couldn’t afford to attend school at all.

When Bob asked his life-long employer, AWC, for a raise, AWC said it was also broke. Bob asked what happened to all the money that AWC had taken for itself, but nobody knew. It was just gone. The company did not grow, it did not become richer, and it became obvious that neither Bob nor AWC had a pot to piss in.

Bob didn’t see the point in continuing to put so much effort into AWC, so he cut back on his work until after a while he wasn’t doing much of anything at all but showing up. Although he and Betty pretty much kept spending as they always had. And by then, AWC wasn’t making much of anything, including money.

No, my dour Republican acquaintances, Bob is not the American people and AWC is not the American government … just the opposite.

In this plain little parable, AWC is the American people and their businesses. Bob is the government. When businesses want to pay Bob less and themselves more, it does not have the effect of increasing either the security or prosperity of the American people. Draconian tax cuts do not allow the people to prosper; in real effect, they cut back on the essential services Bob once provided for AWC. Everyone suffers … except those who never suffer, those who always win: the 1%.

America’s boom time coincided with a period of much higher tax income; the crash followed the largest tax cuts. America is crumbling because nobody wants to pay to fix it. It is not going to fix itself.

This is the basic lesson of how and why taxation functions, about which Republicans are eternally clueless.

Democrats have historically understood the intricate and essential relationship in a society between the responsibilities of citizens and the return responsibility of government — taxes fund the government’s ability to perform those tasks few of us are willing or able to do for ourselves. Lower taxes, less of those services. Every man for himself is anarchy.

You always get what you pay for.

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2 replies »

  1. Your Canadian friends agree. We pay more tax, but we get more for our money and understand our responsibility to look after those who cannot look after themselves. That’s compassion. It isn’t perfect, but it makes us proud. You do get what you pay for. Bravo to you.

    • Thank you for the comment. I am a fan of the Canadian and European systems of social services and how they are funded. There are essential moral differences between people who believe in equitability, fairness, in our encounters with other people sharing the planet, and those in the more selfish mode of “fuck ’em.” You can shut up the selfish, self-focused, folks by insisting that they answer honestly and in detail which social programs they would not pay to support — you can bet they like the ones that benefit them personally and are more than willing to ditch the ones that help others. It’s not an uncommon human response to the problem of “the other.”