Sunday, November 02, 2008

Hard-working Americans

On Friday night, every conversation I got into turned toward politics. Whether I steered the topic or someone else brought it up, the presidential contest as well as a few local races dominated everything.

The conversation that stunned me the most was the final one of the evening. I had stopped in to say hello to my neighbors as the evening wound down, and M quickly enlisted me to help convince their visiting friend why she should vote for Obama rather than McCain. She tossed out a good many of the standard Republican and Fox News talking points and seemed stunned by some of our rebuttals ("we had to go after them" vs. "Iraq didn't attack us" followed by "he was planning to bomb us" vs. "he had no weapons capable of hitting us").

The talking point that struck me the most, however, was her contention that "hard-working Americans" should be able to keep their money. I stopped and asked her, "What makes someone who is making half a million dollars a year a harder worker than me?"

She said, "Well, I just don't think we should penalize anyone for being successful."

But I wouldn't let the taxation point go. "What," I asked her, "makes someone who earns ten times what I earn a harder worker than I am and why should that person pay a lower percentage of their overall income in taxes?" She came back with her comment about hard-working Americans, and that's when I really set in. "I earn a good salary on paper," I told her, "but I work full-time and am a full-time single father with no support. In what way am I not a hard-working American? Why is it fair for me to pay a higher percentage of my income in taxes than our neighbors in the million-dollar houses?"

My attack was harsher than it needed to be, but the point was still dead-on. I earn what should be a fairly comfortable middle-class income and work my ass off to do so both at work and at home. Hard-working people should be able to keep a fair share of their income, and the determination of that fair share should start from the bottom and middle of society rather than the top down.

As Phil and I decided yesterday, the rhetorical and ideological world conservative Republicans live in these days really is a topsy-turvy, carnival mirror take on reality.

I wish them good riddance on Tuesday.