Taking a small break from finishing Promises Made to write a rant. Sorry, had to be done.
This morning at the gym there were two older guys talking politics. One finally says to the other that; "...I've always said the fairest tax is a sales tax. You get to make the choices then and it's all fair for everyone."
They both agreed and decided they were very smart and should run the world.
I was doing Super Sets so didn't have time to challenge him on his perspective but I so wanted to.
I tell people that the only Fair thing comes with Ferris Wheels and Cotton Candy, because fair (like he meant) is all about where you are standing at the time. His idea that sales tax is fair is fine for one measurement. Sure, if you want to say we would all pay the same percentage on a gallon of milk, then that's fair. Except that percentage of your income is very different so it's not very fair at all.
Taking him at superficial levels he's in a gym on a Monday late morning working out wearing his Big Island Running Club t-shirt. He's late 50s early 60s so his kids are probably grown and out on their own. So his choices are, do I buy the Audi or the BMW? Do I go to Hawaii again or to Mexico? They are fine choices, don't get me wrong, but they are very different than the young family both working full time with young kids who are deciding, Do I pay the power bill on time or the rent? Do I buy a gallon of milk or a gallon of gas?
I've been on both sides of those choices. When Brent and I were first married we both worked full time. He was in the military and I worked retail. Hard work. Lots of hours. Still month left at the end of our money. And we were making significantly less than just he makes now. That sales tax that is so fair in Gym Dude's eye would have hit us much harder than our current selves. You know the upper middle class, working out at the gym mid-morning on a Monday leaving for Hawaii in two weeks, selves. Percentages work that way. Everyone paying the same sales tax percentage and calling that good for our only tax isn't fair if you are on the other side of the Cotton Candy stand.
It's the same argument I have with a few of my younger friends right now. I am not really in favor of free college for everyone. They tell me about it being fair. I think, well, I have two associates degrees, Brent has his MBA, C has his bachelor's degree and none of them were free. So now you are asking me to pay more in taxes so your kids can go to college for free after I already paid for mine? How is that fair? And I don't believe everyone should go to college. I think it's not for some people.
I didn't go to college right out of high school. It would have been wasted on me. I barely made it to class in high school. I went to college in San Diego because I couldn't get a job as a bookkeeper without at least an associates degree. Even though I already had a few years experience it didn't matter. They wanted that piece of paper. So I went through their junior college system which was extraordinarily inexpensive, but I also paid with opportunity costs. See, by going to school full time I wasn't able to work full time so we paid for my college not just in tuition but in the lost income. You better believe I made it to class every day. Because it cost me something to do it. Paying for it made it worth more.
So two things there, one, because getting your associates was so inexpensive a lot of people did it, which actually made the degree worth less in California. I got a job after graduation doing something that I was doing without the degree in other states. Because the degree was so common it wasn't worth as much. Not really fair, right? But that's what happens. If everyone has one it's not worth as much. An associates becomes like a high school diploma. It's just the entry ticket.
Secondly, because I did have to pay for it, I took my schooling more seriously. The kids I was in class with who had mom and dad paying? Who were right out of high school and not giving up income to get that degree? They were much bigger slackers. It wasn't costing them anything to be there and they didn't understand yet, what is was going to cost them to NOT be there. Much like I was in high school.
Do I think college has gotten much too expensive? Considering we just paid off all of C's student loans, please believe that I do. But guess what, I'm not going to get a refund on those so when you talk about raising my taxes to pay for your kid I think, "nope, not fair." I think we need to look and see why those costs are so high. What is driving them? What changes need made?
What do I think we should do? I think we should have some sort of civil service. You give 2-4 years you get 2-4 of schooling. Military, Peace Corps type work either nationally or internationally. At the end of the time you get a voucher that you can use for a two year degree, a four year degree, tech school. Whatever your continuing education goals are. You've worked for it. You've earned it. I'm much more comfortable with my taxes supporting a program like that. It seems a lot more fair to me from where I'm standing.
So you see, fair is all about where you are standing. What we need to do is look for more or less fair. More or less balanced. More or less burden sharing. Benefits and costs need to be weighed and we need to see what is best for most. Which you might not view as fair. Or you might.
My fair isn't your fair.
Pass the Cotton Candy.