This showed up on the Facebook feed of my oldest friend. We grew up across the street from one another since the time I moved to the neighborhood at the age of 4. I stood up for his wedding and he stood up for mine. My parents still pick up his parents’ mail when they go on vacation and his parents reciprocate in kind.

When my mom was out of town and my dad didn’t answer the phone for three days, I called his mom and begged her to check in on him. I hadn’t called that number in at least 10 years, but it leapt to the front of my memory with ease.

He’s a “gun guy” and I’m not, but he has no problem posting marriage equality things on his wall. He’s a hell of a parent in ways I never think I will be. He once posted something horribly bullshit about Obama on his wall. When I called him on it, he told me he voted for the guy, he didn’t realize the thing was wrong and he took it down. In other words, not a stereotype but still has leanings.

I saw this thing, a perfect example of how the Internet is allowing bullshit to perpetuate and thus dumb down America, and for some reason, I felt like I got stabbed.

My salary comes from tax dollars. So does my mom’s. Teachers, janitors, garbage collectors, mail carriers and more who are all scraping for a living get paid with our forced contributions to the betterment of society.

Nobody likes it when people take money from them, not even me. However, this warped view of how all these hard-working people just pony up so that some Welfare Queen named Umfufu can pop out another welfare baby is what has led to a general bitterness in our society. It also leads us to elect people who run on nothing more than the idea of “we’ll cut taxes” and thus win in a landslide.

I called him out on it. He deflected it with a joke. I pushed back.

He finally did the “I didn’t mean YOU” thing. I let it go online, but I couldn’t let it go in my heart.

In social psychology, we refer to this as out-group stereotyping with cognitive exception. It’s when your overly broad views of a group are challenged by someone who doesn’t fit the prototype. Thus, instead of changing your views, you note that the person is an exception to the rule.

In other words, “Man, those negroes are lazy, shiftless bastards. Not you, Jenkins. You’re not like the rest of them.”

However, what people fail to see is that the rule is actually the exception.

Instead of pissing and moaning about these people who never pay taxes, look at what you get for your money:

  • Free babysitting for your kids so you can go to your job. They actually get to learn something there as well, so they can go out and get a job later in life as well.
  • Someone who clears your streets of all the snow that falls down so you can get to that job that you think is so important you should keep all the money you make at it.
  • Someone who comes and gets all the trash you generate from the stuff you buy from the money you make at your job. You don’t have to haul the shit to the dump yourself.
  • People who make sure that your house doesn’t burn down when you decide to “multi-task” in the morning by frying bacon and taking a shower at the same time.
  • A cadre of men and women who put their lives at risk so that you aren’t shot or mugged or raped or otherwise attacked because you have that job and all those other people don’t.
  • Agencies that make sure you have a safe environment in which to work, food that doesn’t kill you, water that doesn’t catch fire when you turn on your tap and charlatans who can’t steal your shit out from underneath you.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it illustrates that taxes do some good things, even if you don’t believe that creating a safety net for the least fortunate among us should be one of them.

There’s a reason tuition keeps going up at state schools, making it harder and harder for students to finish their degrees. There’s a reason why faculty pay has stagnated, teacher pay has stagnated and public workers of all stripes are seeing benefits slashed. There’s a reason that public inspection units can’t keep up with demands for safety checks, security watches and even criminal investigations.

The reason is we have less and less money because taxes are viewed as evil and unnecessary. Taxes are seen as the enemy, things that only benefit “the takers” of our society.

A meme doesn’t do all that, but it definitely reflects it.

4 thoughts on “Takers

  1. Both of my parents were Alaska State Troopers; my mother worked for the Department of Corrections, she served on the local school board, and she retired from the Department of Transportation. No one would characterize her as lazy or overpaid.
    My sister works for the federal court system in Alaska. Since the sequester trimmed back the number of people in their office, she regularly stays at least an hour or two late to make sure that everything is set up for court the next day. (You do not inconvenience a federal judge, apparently.) She spends a lot of time traveling around the state with judges for court cases in other districts.
    Yet all of them seem to buy into the “lazy gov’t workers” myth. I just don’t get it.
    My sister started dating a guy who, from what I can tell, is a pretty typical right-winger. Guns, hunting, freedom!, the works. After about a week or so, he started making the joke “Geez, she works I might have to reconsider my opinion of federal workers!” Surprisingly, this didn’t piss her off.

  2. Hell, I’d do just what he asked. I’d send him pictures of the headquarters of NSA, the CIA, the Pentagon, Lockheed-Martin, SAIC, Booz Allen Hamilton, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics. General Atomics, Cargill, ADM, ExxonMobil, Chevron and Halliburton KBR.

  3. Ha ha. I thought your friend was referring to banksters, financiers, and billionaires. Just goes to show how we are all apt to leap to stereotypes.

  4. Glad to see montag and June Butler posted the obvious rejoinder: Photos of Jamie Dimon, Dick Cheney, and Rex Tillerman serve the dual purpose of reminding folks where their tax dollars are going as well as serving as a substitute for Ipecac.

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