Taxation and Representation

On Veteran’s Day, Ella came home from school happily as ever.  Over a snack of sliced apples, she blurted out, “Mom, is it a bad thing to raise taxes?”

Apparently, the Great First Grade Presidential Debate had not quite subsided in her class, even though we adults had decided its outcome the week prior.

A perfectly appropriate book about John McCain, including his military service, had been the focus of one of their “centers” and while it did nothing to clear up the 6-year-old confusion about his “jail” time (there had been much difficulty among her friends processing how and why being a prisoner of war is not the same thing as going to prison…) it did initiate a lively debate about taxes.

“Did someone say Obama was going to raise taxes?” I asked. She nodded.  “Do you know what taxes are?” I asked her.

“No,” she said.  So I explained: Mom and Dad work. We get paid.  Some of that money gets paid to the government, here in California and also in Washington, DC. That money gets used to do a lot of things like:  fight wars, help people who don’t have jobs, pay for schools and libraries and energy and research and the space program; taxes pay for doctors for some people, they help build roads and bridges, etc.

So far so good.

Then came the hard part, which was explaining a little bit of the Obama Tax Plan and why it may raise taxes on people some people making more than 250K.

“So,” I concluded, “whether or not raising taxes is bad, depends on who is being asked to pay more.  If you’re very, very rich, maybe its not so bad to pay more.  But some people think it’s a bad thing to raise taxes at all, because then they have less money to spend. And most people don’t like to give their money away.”  And then we talked a bit about fairness, and why we pay taxes in the first place, and the concept, familiar to her from school, of “to whom much is given, much is expected.”

Certainly, I missed the opportunity to talk about the Boston Tea Party, but I figured this was enough for one day.

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