“Read my lips: no new taxes.”
That is the infamous phrase George H.W. Bush uttered in 1988 at the Republican National Convention when he accepted the party nomination. It’s a phrase that won him an election, a phrase that later rung of a broken promise, and a phrase repeated by our own Gov. Bob McDonnell in response to President Obama’s latest speech on the budget.
It’s a phrase that falsely asserts the belief that sacrifice is not universal and a phrase that portends an utter ignorance of America’s history as a nation. From an economic and political standpoint, increasing taxes is generally not good; it can discourage foreign companies from bringing business to the U.S., decreases consumer spending, hurt small businesses and it won’t get you elected into office.
But we’re living in a time that requires us, no matter our class status, to sacrifice for both our collective future and ourselves.
Spouting divisive rhetoric about conducting a war on the rich won’t solve our crisis. Cutting down on social programs that aid the poor won’t solve our crisis. Our crisis will be solved when we are able to differentiate the luxury of wants from the necessity of needs. Our crisis will be solved when we recognize what we are willing to sacrifice, what we are willing to give up, so that our lives may be sustained.
What’s driving this belief that says no American, whether they’re a multimillion-dollar CEO that ships American jobs overseas or a waiter that’s barely making a living wage, should pay any more in taxes than they currently are?
Honestly, I don’t know. Those who often spread this belief cite concerns for the welfare of the American worker, small businesses and fears that American corporations will be bankrupted or moved overseas – all fears that seem to be coming true even though we aren’t raising taxes.
But that’s almost beside the point. What I do know and care about is reclaiming the American legacy of community and making the sacrifices necessary when you care about others.
From the Revolutionary War to the World Wars and the Great Depression, we have embraced shared sacrifices, knowing our survival depended upon our ability to work together to a common cause. Some will have to sacrifice more than others, but we all must recognize and embrace minimalism as a new lifestyle, even if only temporarily.
It’s not a matter of class warfare, tax reform, or politics. It’s a matter of necessity; we’re fighting multiple wars in the Middle East, domestic security issues, an unstable job market, a national debt crisis, income disparity, foreign oil dependence, and a legislative body that’s too divided to work toward a common purpose.
And what’s the Republican response? Legislation that clearly won’t pass a Democrat-controlled Senate, proposals they aren’t willing to compromise on, artificial issues concerning the president’s legitimacy, and a tired, broken promise of “no new taxes.”
And what’s the Democrat response? Overly generous compromises, weak attempts of supporting their own legislation, and forfeiting of once highly held principals. Neither party has embraced a mindset that truly triumphs sacrifice. Instead, they play political football while delaying the inevitable.
I leave you these words from John Adams to pause over in reflection and remembrance of the sacrifices made by our soldiers, parents, and compatriots, past, present, and future:
“I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.”
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