Friday, March 20, 2009

Spoiler alert: I do not have much respect for people who worry about 'my fair share'.

Several weeks ago I received a Facebook flair from that read: Why do politicians who don't pay their taxes get to spend mine?? Most of the time I ignore this kind of stuff. This is hardly the first "keep your government paws off my hard earned dollars" sentiment that has been expressed near me. This one got my particular attention because the person who sent it does not pay taxes, has not had a job in ?years? & is able to collect a (justified) disability check because of all the people who do pay taxes & the programs those taxes allow to exist.

It put me in mind of a conversation I had many years ago with a computer programmer I worked with. He was complaining that his lifestyle was not an improvement on his parents & that this was the first time in our country's history that this had been so (I am guessing parents in the 1920s & their children who were adults in the 1930s would argue, but none of them were in the room at the time). He was measuring success by the square footage & overall opulence of his home & how many years he had to drive his car before he could afford a comparable new one.

& so I asked him a question (which I thought I already knew the answer to, I admit):

when his wife was recently pregnant, an as-far-as-I-knew perfectly normal pregnancy, did she take advantage of the regular visits & services & medications provided for by our insurance? If such a thing had been available to his mother, would she have considered it a ++ in her quality of life? He never did answer, but I am guessing the answer to both was YES. I later learned the pregnancy had not been normal, there had been a major issue & the issue itself had been discovered during a routine ultra-sound. My point is, maybe quality of life should be measured in more than just the room in which a person watches the best TV that person can afford (or finance).

You don't need me to tell you the latest twist on this particular complaint is "why I am paying for that guy's ____; I lived within my means, why shouldn't he"? It has inspired me to compile a list of things we pay for (well, A pays for mostly ) that on the surface anyhow, mostly benefit some other guy:

School taxes - Let me be clear, we are happy to pay these & think they should be higher. We both believe society as a whole benefits when kids are not roaming the streets like packs of wild dogs & even the career grocery-bagger can read. But the fact remains that people with children have the option of moving their children to a private school & redirecting a portion of public school funds away from this general society benefit & we do not.

We cannot decide that we would rather our school taxes were applied to a local homeless shelter that keeps parents & children together & also provides schooling for both the parents & the kids, but our neighbors can & do get back some money from school taxes & pay their church instead (which has a school their children attend). This is actually twice-irksome; as school taxes here are based largely on local property taxes & these neighbors do not own the house they live in. This means they have not paid in as much in school taxes as they are able to redirect away from the school district.

Health care premiums - Under a previous healthcare provider, we, a married couple with no children, paid the family rate. That means our basic monthly cost to have health insurance was exactly the same as the guy down the hall who had five kids (this was a real guy, by the way. In our small office there was one unmarried man, one married man with five kids & two married men with two kids & us. There was also a married woman with no kids & a married woman with one kid, but they were not on our health plan). All of us (all nine of us, from the first part of the example) were in reasonably good health but the fact remains the consumer of 7/9th of the resource paid 50% of the tab. How many times would you split a dinner check that way before you said "Damn it I had a house salad & you had lobster!"

If you decide you want to spread the cost over the whole office, we paid 1/5th of the bill while using 1/9th of the initital resources, but it was actually bigger than that. In the larger group one child was autistic, one spouse had breast cancer & one employee had multiple back surgeries, but we all had the same monthly fee & deductible. In short, we paid the same amount into a basic plan that we did not use nearly as often. I know because I was the one reviewing the bills that pre-natal care was an option our office elected to pay for (increasing the bill to everyone) & allergy shots were not. Guess which one of these would have been more use to me personally.

We have since changed our provider (nothing to do with this discrepancy) & are now in a plan that is structured differently, although it does still favor families with two children; after that it is pay-per-head. I laugh when I hear people balk at the bill for socialized medicine; as far as I am concerned we have been paying for a form of socialized medicine all this time.

Airfare - our combined weight is, well, lets just say less than 320lb. (& the average weight for men & women in the country is 167.2, so apparently we are absolutely normal). I don't know about you, but I have never been on a commercial flight when at least one person did not weigh in the ballpark of 300lb. I guarantee you, that person did not pay more for a ticket because of body weight. & yet that person will certainly use (fractionally) more resources, every time they fly. I know some big people (I am related to some big people, I love & respect some big people), & I know they gamble that there will be an empty seat next to them (or between them) & that they will be able to take up more room without having to buy that second ticket.

On one memorable flight, a very large stranger was very angry with me because I would not let him raise the arm of the seat between us & squeeze over. He had trouble accepting he had gambled & lost (are there really people who are OKay with being plastered to one side of their seat so someone they do not know can press in on them?).

Many airlines also used to let you take a baby under a particular age at no charge on a flight, so long as that baby sits in your lap. There was a time I flew regularly & I dreaded being pinned in the window seat with a parent & lap-passenger; every time this happened I missed my connection waiting for mom (it was always mom) to juggle the baby & their luggage. Before you assume I did not offer to help, ask yourself how many dry cleaning bills have you have offered to pay after your kid gorped all over the suit next to you; no one ever offered to pay mine. Several did, however, complain loudly that the flight attendants could be more helpful or plentiful... Counting either pounds or heads, most of the time the average Joe Flyer is getting the short end of this deal & has more or less accepted it.

This one has been bothering me more lately because I often fly with a little dog. She rides in a carrier at my feet. That carrier counts as a piece of luggage in my total luggage allocation, so my only other bag costs extra on some airlines. I would be OKay with this (I guess) if I was not already paying the airline over $100 extra per flight to fly the little dog in the first place. There is an element of 'luxury tax' here, I understand that. What I cannot fathom is the passenger-with-baby already getting a reduced ticket who thinks everyone should pay more so she can have more help personally.

Clothing - that's right, clothing. I wear a size 6.5/7 shoe (sometime as a 7/7.5 if the toe is really, really pointy). I have a good friend who wears a size 11. Her shoes use more material, weigh more (therefore cost more to ship), but cost the same as mine. Ditto on jeans, dresses, blouses, etc. Even at my chubbiest, I have never worn the national average size: a ladies 14. But generally I pay the same price off-the-rack as a person who wears an 18. Next time you are shopping, line up a size 10 against a size 18. Depending on the garment, it will be a minimum 1/3rd larger & probably more.

Food - we actually spend a lot less on food than most people because I do not cook beef; I just cannot take the smell, & we do not eat pork (meat being the big part of most grocery bills). But we do pay the taxes that pay the subsidies for these foods to be shipped from large feed lots to processing plants to our grocery store. I confess, this is one why-am-I-paying-for-that-I-never-use-it policy I would like to see change & I do make every effort to buy anything I can locally (not just food, but books & anything else I can. After food & books, there is not much we buy, now that I think about it). Still, we are paying part of the bill to ship a lot of other people's food in.

I realize this all seems like small change but it adds up. & 360+ days a year, I do not mind (OKay, I did mind Fatso bitching about the arms of the seat cutting into him & suggested that next time he buy two seats & maybe this flight he would be more comfortable in the toilet). But really, I do not mind. I do wish, though that before people started ranting about not wanting to pay part of someone else's bills, that they would consider there may already be some one out there subsidizing theirs.

& if that is not enough to make you think twice, there is one group of people in this country who routinely pay higher taxes (often because they are in higher income brackets), have far fewer children than average (& thus are not using either the schools or family health care services they are paying for), & are rarely married (& so pay more in living expenses generally, which is a double-factor here where there is no income tax, but there is a sales tax) & often do not qualify for any spousal benefits, even if they are not living alone.

Rarely married outside of Massachusetts, that is. What happens to the rest of us the day the gay community says "you know what, you are right it is not fair that we have to pay your bills. So we are setting up our own financial system to meet only our needs. Tah"?

//For the sake of this entry, I started looking up our actual numbers. Using the per head model for health insurance alone (if we had paid 1/9th of the office's total monthly bill instead of 1/5th), we would have saved at least 2k every year (or the insurance company would have made a lot more off the whole office). As for the nickel&dime stuff, I bought fabric to make myself a skirt recently: 1.75 yards at $11 per yard. The same pattern size 18 called for 3.25 yards. At this point I decided it would be better to stop.


  1. Some excellent points and some I'd never thought of.

    I am reminded of the time I was complaining in a clothing store that my size 6-8 clothes were as expensive as the larger sizes. A size 18 heard me and said, "Well, you should pay more, we'd all like to be your size."

    To this day I can't think of an answer to that.

  2. Just saw your blog for the first time today. I really love this post and enjoy your general topics of discussion in other posts. I'm also somewhat envious of your property, as I live on a relatively small lot in Jacksonville.

    Anyway, hello, and good job.