Our Fair Share

When I was growing up in Sunray, Texas, we had to work for what we got. Every summer during high school, I worked on farms around my small town to earn enough money to buy a couple of pairs of Levis, a couple of new shirts, a bottle of English Leather, a ChapStick now and then, and other incidentals I might need during the school year. The summer after my junior year, I even bought a twelve-year-old Ford for $300.00 of my own money.

And when it came time for college, I couldn’t have made it through West Texas State without working at some job every semester. At different times, I worked at a filling station, a hotel, a retail store, and an ice cream parlor. Larry Reasoner and I kept the grounds and cleaned the interior of the Baptist Student Center so we could live there rent free. In the summers, it was back to plowing and planting at some farm around Sunray to feed the kitty. Through seminary, I worked the graveyard shift at Southern Indiana Mental Health and Guidance Center in Jeffersonville. That is how I got the education that has made it possible for me to follow my professional calling and raise a family. I guess you could call me a self-made man.

Except no one is. No one is self-made. Everybody in America who lives above the poverty line has had help from somebody, and if you have done well in America, you should realize that it is America that made that possible.

Seminary? I couldn't have made it without SIMH where I worked, but neither could I have made it without the work my wife did as a journalist and office secretary, not to mention the tithes of many thousands of Christians that covered a portion of the cost roughly equivalent to what taxpayers covered for college. All those college jobs paid only a fraction of the total cost of my education; a couple of small scholarships and help from my parents, including some veteran’s benefits after my father died, combined to pay another fraction of the cost. But about 65% of the cost of my B.A. (and this goes for every student in a state university) was paid by the government, and, of course, that came from taxes paid by thousands of Texans and other Americans.

Many of those taxpayers hadn’t even gone to college themselves. Many had no children in college. But early in the life of our nation, our forebears realized that strong, widespread education was essential to a healthy nation. They could see that everybody benefited from living in a nation of educated people, no matter how far any particular individual was able to pursue that education for himself or herself. And Americans were not ashamed to ask everyone to do their part to support affordable education through taxes.

And it is not just education. Everyone, rich and poor, should pay their fair share for those things that are needed to keep America strong. Even a poor widow can give a mite.

It often comes as a surprise, however, when people discover that it is not those on the lower end of the income scale who are underpaying. A recent study shows that in Texas those whose income amounts to over half the money earned in the whole state pay only 40% of the taxes. Those who earn less than half the money pay 60% of the taxes. If anyone is not paying their fair share, it is those in that top 1/5 of the people who earn over half the money. I am guessing that similar statistics can be shown across America. Legislatures should fix this. A sense of fairness if not patriotism should motivate those top earners to do their part.

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