One of the more poisonous talking points I’ve heard - one which Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney repeated recently - is that the 47 percent of Americans that don’t pay any federal income taxes just want the government to take care of them in every aspect.
“I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” he said.
Bald-faced professional liars, some of whom seemingly get paid to divide us against each other, often oversimplify Romney’s math by saying that half of Americans pay no taxes and are parasitic leeches.
It’s worth pointing out that almost two-thirds of households that paid no federal income tax did pay payroll taxes. It’s also worth pointing out that most people also pay some combination of state, local, sales, gas and property taxes.
It strikes me as somewhat dishonest to blame Obama for the bad economy and at the same time blame people for not wanting to find work. After all, how likely can it be that millions of people just suddenly became lazy during the late 2008 economic downturn?
What I know personally is that I worked just as hard when I didn’t owe any federal income taxes whatsoever as I do now. I also know many people who need government assistance that work just as hard, or likely harder, than I do.
I absolutely abhor attacks on entire groups of Americans, regardless of what they believe. Attitudes like this create a level of discourse that is the intellectual equivalent of a Superfund site or a meth lab.
We are all Americans here, and that will continue to be true after the election, no matter who ends up winning. Be wary of anyone who uses the phrase “Real American,” because the newly naturalized immigrant is just as American as I am, and I’ve had family in this country dating back to the late 1600s.
Instead of vilifying each other and and judging in each other in a vain attempt to feel like we’re better than other people, we could listen to what other people are actually saying and honestly assess where we actually agree and disagree. It’s possible, it just requires a knee that doesn’t jerk and a capacity for nuanced, abstract thought.
We can disagree with what is best for this country without saying that all of our country’s problems are caused by the Other Team or some villainous Other. But we have to be willing to treat our neighbours the way we want to be treated, and we have to be willing not to bear false witness against them.
Franklin Clark is a reporter for the Cadiz Record and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.