contributing to the common wealth

A friend of mine made some great points in her comments on my last post. Most important: not every child is better off staying home with a parent or loved one. I hope I was clear I realize that’s the case. That’s true for the children and for the parents. That’s part of why we need well-funded programs outside the home.
My friend then wrote what I think sums up the problematic and very popular views of taxation and the common good. She wrote:

“I DO NOT want my taxes increased to help parents stay home with their kids, so that my kids end up with less … nor do I want ‘rich people’ taxed more if that means I end up out of a job.”

However, our taxes will definitely increase if we continue on this path of cutting back on social services and allowing corporate greed to destroy our economy. It is our responsibility as citizens to be sure our nation functions relatively well (the common good). We already pay for other people’s life choices: prisons, police, schools, school meals, afterschool programs, the entire justice system, child protection services… the list goes on.
It’s short-term thinking and, I believe, misguided to be concerned our taxes might increase if we begin supporting families with young children. If we pay for a parent or loved one to stay home with children ages 0-5 (when all key brain formation happens) we are investing in our nation’s future. As I’m not an economist or an expert, I don’t have numbers to back this up, but, it only makes sense to me that if we really “focus on the family” and seriously support parents of very young children that in the end we’ll all benefit.
Living in the United States of America brings with it responsibilities that include supporting the common good. When the instant response to the idea of supporting parents staying home with their children is “don’t take my money!” it’s clear the radical right is winning the debate. Although my friend’s reaction is common, the real issue isn’t the government taking our money. Our money will go and does go—in the form of our contribution to the common wealth (taxes)—to support our fellow citizens. That’s how our country works. The question is what that support looks like. Will it be allowing a parent to stay at home with their child? Or will it be 10-15 years in prison?
As far as regulating greed and Paula’s fear for her job, that sounds like corporate greed successfully blackmailing the workers. “Don’t make my greed illegal or I’ll lay people off!”
If we set limits on what is a reasonable amount of profit and require the additional funds be invested back into the company how, really, could that result in more layoffs than are already happening? I’m not saying it’s impossible, of course, that upper management might find ways to make the workers pay for their decreased and no longer obscenely excessive financial gains. But we’ve tried the free-and-easy version of capitalism and look how that has worked… Greed begets more greed and common decency is lost. How someone can live with themselves when they bring home millions of dollars, and then more millions of dollars, while their staff are losing jobs or are barely making ends meet I’ll never understand.
My friend’s concern that her taxes might go up is the prevailing concern among the Tea Party types (she isn’t one, but that’s what we hear about so much lately in the mainstream media) and among so many people from moderate to conservative. There’s the misconception that tax money leaving our bank accounts goes to waste while the money we spend on a toilet brush from Target that was made in China is somehow a good investment.
Here’s the simplistic, over-simplified, and did I mention, entirely too general a statement to be worth much? version of what I think ought to happen:

  • laws are passed indicating what is considered fair profit and what is considered greed (greed = illegal)
  • when mega corporations (obviously this wouldn’t apply to smaller businesses who don’t have enough $ to be so bloody greedy) break the new greed laws the money they took (above the greed level) goes directly to the employees, equally, no matter the position

It might also be nice to have incentives for paying employees well and taking less compensation at the upper levels. Tax deductions, even!
Oh, and, for any of this to work we need the government to pay for all of our healthcare and we need to scrap the insurance industry entirely. But, um, that’s a different post.