Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A rant or a quaint story, you decide.

I'll never forget my first lesson in economics.  The schooling took place around my family's dining room table.  I was young, but old enough to have earned my own money, and old enough to have bought my first candy bar with that hard earned money.

The chocolatey bar was advertised as 50cents.  Perfect, I could sacrifice two hard earned quarters in exchange for sweet satisfaction.  However, upon payment I discovered I'd have to sacrifice three additional pennies.  As a young child, I felt I'd been cheated.  Hadn't the sticker near the bar read 50cents?  Why was I so deceived; why did I have to part with the pennies, in addition to the quarters?

As my family sat down for dinner that evening, it would have looked like any other night in our home.  We would enjoy my mother's wonderful cooking; a meal guaranteed to be made on a budget.  We would also communicate the days events; the humor, the lessons learned, and any uncontrolled emotions would have an opportunity to be resolved.

Naturally, I decided to discuss my disappointment over losing those three pennies.  Before I could fully express my deep despair, my father interrupted, "Don't ever complain about having to pay taxes!"

Taxes?!  My poor little mind couldn't believe my father had sided with the unpleasant store clerk. But he spoke with such authority that I knew I had better keep my mouth shut.  I'd have to forget about ever seeing those three pennies again.

He continued.  "We wouldn't have any of this food if it weren't for taxes!"  Imagine my surprise, all this time I thought the money my father earned as one of our town's two elementary school principals was what made our family meals possible, not taxes.  I'm not sure if I dared question him in his time of clear anger, or if he just went on explaining the whole process.

"My paycheck comes from the tax money the community and the state collect from purchases like your candy bar."

I sat stupefied, so everyone gets paid from taxes?

"No.  The owners of local companies like Droubay Chevrolet earn their paychecks from the sale of their cars.  We support Droubay Chevrolet by buying our family cars locally; they support us by paying taxes.  If it weren't for taxes I wouldn't get paid.  If people didn't buy Droubay Chevrolet cars, the workers at Droubay's wouldn't get paid."  It's all part of being a society.  It's how we support one another.    

The cloud had lifted.  Though I was young, it all made sense. Perhaps it made too much sense; people gave a lot more money for things like cars than they did things like taxes.

** I acknowledge this is a work of creative non-fiction.  My mother will say "you tell stories Alizabeth Anne."  My father will laugh at the exaggerated beauty and fright I shed on our family time meals.  And none of my three brothers will have any memory of this evening. But in my mind, what I have written did happen.  Just as I've told it.  And all of the events detailed continue to have a profound impact on my thought process.   In hindsight I recognize we were not as poor as I imagined, and having more money didn't make it impossible for other's to be as humble as the rest of us.  Also, the unpleasant store clerk turned out to be a delightfully funny woman once I grew up.  I'd imagine the change was mine, not hers. This is simply intended to be a quaint childhood memory with all the undertones of the political strife I now see in the adult world that surrounds me.   Maybe I should try to make all my political rants so "adorable."

1 comment:

Scott and Claudia said...

Loved your story! I must have selective memory as I don't recall all of those events. I do remember giving lessons (maybe it was a lecture) on taxes! One important lesson on taxes you forgot me giving was that the US is highly undertaxed when compared with many nations -- might be why our standard of living keeps declining.
Love, Pa

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