I Believe in Taxes

Mary - Louisville, Kentucky
Entered on November 18, 2008

I believe in Taxes. I may not have the economic acumen of the free-market individualist who grumbles about big government taking his money, but I know in my heart that he is wrong. Taxes are good, almost the greatest good. This I learned at Jolly Cholly’s.

When I was growing up in the sixties, Jolly Cholly’s was the local amusement park, no Six Flags over Texas, more like One Streamer over South Attleboro, a stay-put version of the fly-by-night carnivals that tour county fairs. But Jolly Cholly’s had one big advantage. Every year, they offered free rides for good grades–three tickets for an A, one ticket for a B. Summer officially began when Dad would collect our report cards, pile us into the station wagon, and set off on our annual pilgrimage to cash in on our brains. At the ticket booth, he would present all of our report cards in a bunch, collect as many tickets as their A’s and B’s warranted, add a few more as his pocket money allowed, and then distribute all equally among us.

I would feel a pang of resentment as my father doled out our shares. I had more A’s. I should get more tickets. Hadn’t I been studying while the others were playing ball or watching TV? Had I dared to complain, I would have heard my father’s stock answer to all such gripes about fairness: “The whole world is unfair.”

Anyway, my resentment was short-lived as we dashed off for an afternoon of thrills. Father knew best. What fun would the bumper cars be without slacking siblings to race and bash? How would I have mustered courage even to try the ScreamLiner, if I hadn’t been more afraid of my brother calling me a baby? And those lame little grab bags of crackerjack toys wouldn’t have been any fun at all if we hadn’t had the possibility of bartering with each other for the better prize.

I understood the advantage of sharing, but my childish self still believed that I had earned my grades, as later I would earn my salary, on my own merits. Now, I understand that We are much more complicated.

Would I have earned those A’s if my older brother hadn’t led the way, if seven siblings hadn’t challenged me daily, if we hadn’t lingered around the dinner table vying to impress our father with feats of recall, if we hadn’t spent hours playing Scrabble, Monopoly, and Capture-the-Flag, if our home hadn’t been filled with books, if my mother had not read to us even when she must have been exhausted, or squelched her ambitions to make sure we were all well-fed and clothed, or if I could not walk to the library or attend community theater, or look up to civic leaders, or aspire to my own place in the world? In the end, my name was on the report card, but those A’s belonged to the whole family and beyond that, to the whole community who had cooperated in my success.

Jolly Cholly’s taught me the self-interest of sharing the wealth. Growing up has taught me more. The whole world may be unfair, but most unfair is the belief that one deserves one’s wealth. Taxes mean more than a better time for all. They mean thanks for the immeasurable ways that you have contributed to me.