For fifteen years, from 1982 until 1997, I was a single mother on active duty. (I’m still single and still a mother, but I no longer have financial responsibility for the tykes, the youngest of whom is 29.) Those were really tough years financially. I didn’t make a lot of money, and if I hadn’t had a house with a low mortgage payment and people who looked out for me, I honestly don’t know how I would have made it through that period of my life. Sometimes friends would donate their old furniture to me. One sold me a car; another, later, helped me buy a different used car. A few times, friends came over and did minor home repairs. One once found me a deal on a new central air compressor.
I wasn’t lazy. I wasn’t on welfare. I had three kids, a full time job, and all of those 15 years I was working on several college degrees, ending with a master’s the year after my youngest child turned 18. But I had very little money.
In short, times were tough, financially and otherwise.
One “person” who looked out for me was my Uncle Sam. Because we have a graduated income tax system under which people pay according to their means, I received tax breaks for my “head of household” status and for my three minor dependents. I don’t have easy access to my old tax records, but I probably paid well less than $1500 in federal income taxes in 1997, the last year I qualified as head of household and had a dependent other than myself. For argument’s sake, let’s say it was $1500.
In 1998, I became, for tax purposes, a “single” person. I no longer maintained a household for dependent children and had only myself as an exemption. My taxes might have skyrocketed, but for the next three years, ironically, I made even less money than before, in part because my previous job had ended with my boss’ retirement and I was teaching part time. For a while there, I also had a very crummy low-wage mortgage company job (with one of those companies that recently was bought out just before it collapsed). My income was even lower, but due to my new status, my taxes increased somewhat.
Six years ago, I obtained a full-time teaching job, and my income increased considerably, although I am still hardly a top-wage earner. Last year I made about $46,000, including summer work. Next year it’ll be a lot less because I will have little or no summer employment.
In 2007, I paid $5300 in federal income taxes. This means that over a ten year period, I have had an increase in taxes of more than 300%.
I have never once complained about this, and I’m not writing this post to complain now.* Between 1982 and 1997, I was financially insecure, and sometimes financially paralyzed. Now times are better, and I am comfortable enough not to have to worry about how I am going to pay for the groceries or if I’ll be able to make it to the next paycheck. (Other things are more problematic, but I can cover all the basics.)
For this reason – because I am financially stable and can afford all the basics – I think it’s just that I have received that 300% increase. Sure, I’d like to pay fewer taxes, but I haven’t forgotten that when I needed the “wealth redistributed” to me, it was. When I couldn’t afford to pay $5300 in taxes, I wasn’t asked to. And now that I can afford to pay it, I am asked.
On a small scale, this is Barack Obama’s tax plan. Some people can better afford to share the cost of running our country. And those complaining should consider that Obama isn’t asking anyone, not even those making over $250,000 per year, for a 300% increase.
So to those complaining, get over it.
*I have sometimes complained about how the money was spent, but never that I was required to pay it.