Once upon a time, there was a revolution whose rallying-cry was “no taxation without representation” and when I think of such a revolution I wonder about North America’s homeless, and about the very-very poor. Who is representing them at the highest levels of power?
Who in the US or Canada says, “I represent the people sleeping under bridges. And my constituents want clean clothes, hot food, warm beds, medical care, and jobs”?
How many lobbyists whisper into the ears of the powerful, “Pssst, my guy says you won’t be sorry if you help him out here. He’ll be a big man some day, but right now he needs a bath”?
I have always taken the position that everyone should pay taxes according to his or her ability to pay: no tax for the very-very poor until they get established and begin earning more than a subsistence wage; but much higher taxes for the rich because—make a note of this—they're still going to be rich after paying their taxes.
It's so simple. What kind of people believe the rich “deserve” tax cuts? Oh, yes, those who believe the theory that Big Business always provides jobs, that’s who.
Okay, then: how about a business getting a tax break for every new job provided, but a tax penalty for every job downsized?
It isn't, of course, that simple. I remember feeling sorry for the newly-re-elected US President Obama because the punters were predicting another downturn in the US economy if he were to win, and I thought it might translate into a downturn in our Canadian economy because our fate is so irrevocably linked to theirs.
I worked for about 30 years. I worked hard. I worked a lot of unpaid overtime, and a lot of paid overtime. I was good at my job and had a good background in, and understanding of, the industry in which I worked.
I paid taxes. And when I was paid for overtime, I paid more taxes, in a higher tax bracket, so that my take-home pay was less than it would have been if I had not worked overtime.
Is that fair? Probably not.
Did I complain to my Member of Parliament? No, I did not. Educated tradespersons are, almost without exception, grateful to be earning a good living wage.
So where do we go from here? If I were in any position to do something, I would probably campaign for a political party that promises to take from each citizen based on his or her ability to pay, and to give to each citizen according to his or her inability to pay for such necessities as food, shelter and clothing.
Would some people give up their jobs in order to earn a subsistence pension from the government? That possibility does exist, but for most people it is not a probability. Very few working people want to voluntarily end up on what Brits call “the dole” because it actually is subsisting, it isn’t really living.
How do I know? Because I had a job, as I said before, and then I got sick. I belonged to a union, with a contract that provided for two years of long-term disability pay. At the end of the two years, however, the international corporation which, by then, owned the nice little local newspaper for which I’d been working, fired me, and refused to pay me my severance pay. It would have been a nice sum, because I’d worked there for quite a few years, but they refused.
So, there I was, with no income. I tried to find other work. I cashed in my Registered Retirement Savings Plan. I tried to find other work. I sold my house and much of my furniture. I tried to find other work. I didn’t give away my cats, however, because my union and I were taking the company to arbitration.
Time went by. I tried to find other work. I saw many doctors, including one hired by the company (he was supposed to disprove my disability). I did find part-time work. I lived in a travel trailer. A lovely trailer, in a very nice trailer park with a river and a duck pond, but it was a travel trailer nevertheless.
Then I got sick with a whole 'nother kind of illness. I was so sick with it, my parents moved into my trailer so that Mother could take care of me. Mother learned that putting frozen chicken on the kitchen counter to thaw is fine when you just have a small dog, but not so good when there are also two cats. The squeaky noises I made when in dire pain upset Dad, but he learned he could retreat to their truck camper where he was writing a book.
The cats were very happy, because they could tease my parents’ dog. I was miserable because I’d given up my bed to my parents, and was sleeping on a narrow bunk in the back of the trailer, with a cat on either side of me, but I was very grateful I’d thought to buy a two-bedroom travel trailer.
The medication for the second illness had dire effects on what remained of my health, but I did win the arbitration. I got my severance pay, and eventually the federal government accepted the word of the doctor hired by the company—instead of disproving my disability as the bigwigs wanted, he said the job had caused my condition. So, with both health problems still active, and several new ones brought on by the cortico-steroid (not exactly performance-enhancing drugs) ordered by my doctors, I sold my pretty little trailer and moved into a mobile home in a drier climate, hundreds of miles from the ocean.
Do you want to hear about the accountant who messed up my income tax return and left me owing half of my severance pay to the feds? No.
Just be assured, however, that I know to have, and to have-not, from both sides now, and I know to have is better, even when I didn't have very much.