Thursday, April 22, 2010

Rich poor man

April 15th, perhaps my least favorite day is gone until next year. With government programs taking a bigger bite each year, soon I won’t be able to afford to work. We need more people who refuse handouts – and that includes all manners of welfare: corporate subsidies or tax-breaks funded by others.

I am willing to pay my fair share (what is fair and who gets to share is up for debate), but I’m still steaming from having to part with what amounts to be a penalty for earning an income. My kind is disappearing though. According to the Tax Policy Center in Washington D.C., 47 percent of the households in this country did not pay any federal income tax this year. It could be because their incomes were too low, or perhaps credits, deductions and exemptions erased any tax obligation.

In a CBS News poll released April 11th of this year, 50 percent of Americans think the amount they pay in taxes is fair. Let me use sloppy math and suggest that 47 percent is close to 50 percent. The number of people who pay no federal income tax is about the same number as those who think the amount of taxes they pay is fair. That sounds about right – if you don’t have to pay to get the benefits it probably seems fair.

Just like the ABC’s, it seems so elementary – this country needs its attitude adjusted, beliefs balanced and convictions calibrated. For without a new vision, those paying taxes will soon be outnumbered by those getting the benefits. The minority will be supporting the majority, and a country following that trend can not sustain itself.

Those that benefit from a benevolent government occupy both ends of the economic scale with the middle class holding up both of them. But this is not to suggest that all wealthy or all poor are comfortable in receiving handouts.

Even though I cannot recall his name there is a man I will never forget. Although it’s probably not his real name I will call him Rich – as in rich poor man.

It was back in the early years of my job – “the good old days.” My wife, Rhonda, was my secretary (the term administrative assistant was not yet in vogue). She was also my bookkeeper, receptionist and marketing department. One afternoon we had a visitor to our office, which was an uncommon occurrence then. Rich came to inquire about doing business with us. He brought his son (about six-years old or so) with him. During our conversation it became evident this was a poor family; for whatever reason they did not have a lot.

Trying to make a bad situation better, Rhonda started giving the little boy stuff: crayons, coloring books, candy and some pencils. I think eventually she would have given him the office furniture if Rich hadn’t stopped her.

“I know what you’re trying to do and I appreciate it,” he said. “But it’s OK. It’s true we don’t have a lot. But, each of my kids has a bike and a glove. We have enough and we’re happy.”
We talked for a few more minutes and then they walked out with their trinkets. Even though he didn’t buy anything I profited from his visit.

I’ve thought about him often over the years. He had next to nothing yet he expected nothing: no handouts, no spreading of the wealth, and he made no demands. That was over twenty years ago and I wonder where he went. For if guys like Rich don’t come back soon taxes will eat us alive bite by bite.

1 comment:

  1. "We have enough and we're happy". I'm sure that the man didn't have a PHD, a long and impressive resume, or would be confused with a recognized "expert". That he brought his child with him was my first clue that he was unique. I wonder if he was a religious man? We don't often enough recognise greatness, even when it is across your desk. You were lucky to have met him early in your life. I'm lucky now. Great story.