September 5, 2003
By Edward Daley
Ok, so you’re a single, working class Joe pulling down $20,000 a year at the age of 25. You’re paying roughly a third of everything you make in taxes, from income to Social Security taxes; gasoline to sales taxes; excise to clean air taxes, and on and on.
You’re not wealthy, far from it. You have rent payments, car payments, school loan payments, utility payments, insurance payments, food and clothing expenses, and you like to keep a few bucks in your pocket for a bottle of booze or an occasional video rental. You also have a girlfriend who has rather extravagant tastes in clothing and jewelry, and really enjoys eating in restaurants. You work fifty hours a week and spend five hours on top of that driving to and from your place of employment, so you’re pretty tired most of the time, but at least you have weekends off and you like what you do for a living. You haven’t had a raise in over a year and your company is currently laying people off, but your boss assures you that your job is secure in spite of the economic slow down, and, confidentially, you look like management material to him.
You have one credit card, and owe about $400 on it. Your three-year-old Ford Mustang is in need of minor repairs, but if left unattended, it will probably require major work within 6 months. You make a mental note of that. You have about $1,800 in the bank and no stock, bond or land investments, which means that if your car does break down, you’re savings will be cut in half by the time you’ve had it fixed. Things aren’t great, but they could be worse, and besides, you’re a young man with plenty of opportunities ahead of you.
So, one Sunday afternoon you’re sitting in your tastefully decorated (by your girlfriend) living room watching the tube and waiting for the football game to start when you stop flipping through the channels long enough to see the top two presidential contenders as they begin to debate the state of the economy. One candidate, a Republican, claims that everyone, regardless of their income class, could use a tax cut of one kind or another because the economy needs more money flowing into it in order to stimulate growth. The other candidate, a Democrat, claims that because the government has a budget deficit, “rich” people need to pay more in taxes.
On election day, you and the majority of people in the country vote for the candidate who wants to raise taxes on the “rich.” What the heck, your next door neighbor who just bought a new Mercedes definitely isn’t hurting for money. People like him SHOULD pay higher taxes! Sure, he seems like a nice enough guy, but hey, he can afford to pay a few more dollars in the name of balancing the budget. It’s only fair, right?
Anyway, a few months go by and your boss tells you he has to let you go. At the same time, your rent is increased by $50 a month and the cost of virtually everything you buy seems to be going up. You find another job making $18,000 a year, move to a cheaper apartment in a seedy part of town and trade in your car for a six-year-old Hundai, which, it turns out, needs about as many repairs as your Ford did.
Also, your new employer’s health insurance provider doesn’t offer a plan that will cover you as well as the last one did, unless you agree to pay more money out of your own pocket for it, and it doesn’t look like anyone is supporting the new president’s universal healthcare bill like you were hoping they would. Your new neighbor is a drug addict who keeps you up all night with wild parties, and his friends vandalize your car one night in a crack induced fit over you calling the cops on them the night before. Your credit card debt just doubled because you had to charge 4 retread tires and a new windshield to the account. You would have paid cash for them, but the cost of moving, registering another car, paying those new, increased deposits for electricity and telephone service, and buying your girlfriend a present for her birthday pretty much wiped out your bank account.
The months go by and you find yourself sitting in your dingy little living room, watching the basketball game on network TV (because you can’t afford the rising cost of cable anymore) and wondering what just happened to your life. Well, here’s the deal… thanks to 6 out of 10 voters (yourself included) your old boss had his taxes raised, so he had to “cut corners” in order to stay in business. You just happened to be one of those “corners.” You actually sort of liked the guy before he gave you the ax, but even so, you still felt he needed to pay higher taxes. After all, he WAS one of those “rich” people, just like your previous neighbor with the Mercedes. You remember him, he was the one who DIDN’T slash your car’s tires out of spite or wake you up in the middle of the night screaming bloody murder. In fact, the only thing he ever did do was give you a bottle of single malt scotch for Christmas because you told him how much you liked his Mercedes.
Your former “rich” landlord had his taxes raised too, so he decided to increase your rent payments, forcing you to move. You hated him for that, but now that you think about it, at least he always made sure your utilities worked, the garbage was collected, the toilet didn’t back up every other day and the place wasn’t infested with cock roaches and other vermin…unlike your new landlord.
The local retail stores, manufacturers, distribution companies and the like all had their taxes raised as well, so they decided to pass their increased costs onto you. When push came to shove, it was either raise consumer prices or lay off your friends who work for them. After all, did anyone really expect the owners of those companies to take a pay cut on behalf of people like yourself who just voted to raise their taxes?
So anyway, there you are, suddenly turning the corner on 26 years of age. You work at a crappy job, for a cranky boss who doesn’t pay you nearly what you’re worth and is always asking you to come in on weekends. You find yourself buying industrial sized cans of ‘Raid’, a heavy duty toilet plunger, new tires every other month (because your neighbors are totally out of control and the cops don’t patrol that neighborhood very often), higher fuel bills (because your place is so poorly insulated), higher prices at the store, higher insurance premiums, a security alarm for your apartment (because God knows what those maniacs next door will try next) and none of your friends want to visit you in that “hell-hole” (as they like to call it) you now call home.
Oh yeah, and your girlfriend just called to tell you that she doesn’t feel your relationship is working out, saying something about the problem being with HER and not YOU… yada yada yada. In less than a year you’ve gone from being a fairly stable young man with a pretty young lady on your arm, a nice apartment, a cool car and extra money to spend, to a lonely, dateless, overworked schmuck, with swelling credit debt, no money in the bank, a career that’s in the crapper and a brand new acid stomach condition.
Still, look at the bright side. The way things are going, it won’t be long before you qualify for that earned income tax credit the new president was talking about last year while he was pushing for those tax hikes on the “rich.”