Sharing the Tea Party

The hawaiian-shirted tea-party man was back in front of our supermarket, this time with a more subtly honed message: “Sign here to lower your taxes!”

“Mommy, why aren’t you talking to that man?” Sophie asked. She is accustomed to me being friendly to strangers.

“Oh, honey, “lower taxes” means that man doesn’t want to share.”

“Why?”

Being a professor means that my 3-year-old has to listen to explanations that are perhaps too long. I just can’t resist the temptation to pass on my civic values / indoctrinate my toddler.

“Taxes are how people share,” I told her. “Everybody pays in a little money, and then the government builds parks and schools and roads and police and firemen for everybody to use. I think this is a good system, so I don’t want lower taxes. I like the parks and schools and roads and police and firemen. I like sharing.”

“But that man doesn’t want to share?”

“That’s right, he doesn’t. Lots of people don’t like taxes. I don’t know how they expect to get parks and roads and all those other things without taxes. I don’t really understand them. I think sharing is good, and I think government is the only thing that can build good parks and roads and firestations.”

“Let’s go talk to him! We need to teach him to share!”

By this time, we were loading our groceries into our car, and the woman next to us was scowling mightily. Saying aloud that taxes are okay is pretty strange behavior for San Diego County.

“Taxes pay for bailing out the government, too!” this stranger told Sophie. I’m not sure what she meant. Stabilizing the financial system? Keeping Detroit from imploding? I think those bail-outs were mismanaged, but I don’t think those things were avoidable. I didn’t want to get in a big political debate with this stranger, though. I just nodded, “Yeah, a bailout too. There’s always controversies over how taxes are spent. Still, we need taxes for parks and schools and roads and police.”

“Yeah,” Sophie said. “Let’s go talk to that man. We need to tell him to share.”

That’s what comes from over-sharing. My toddler already has my values, almost too well.

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