A few days ago, the BBC reported a sickening fact on one of the provisions of the the Kyoto protocols from ’97. Of the developed countries that did agree to them — the US being the great exception — one provision was for them to contribute to a fund for developing countries in order to help them with environmental cleanup and to make the adjustments necessary to combat climate change. According to the BBC, a fund that should have $1.6 billion in it by now only has $260 million in contributions. Mouthpieces for the developed world apparently said in response that, well, “we given money and helped in other ways,” just not through this fund.
This may be true, but this isn’t much different from what my father once said to me when I confronted him about twenty-three years ago about his overall lack of child support. “I giv’ ya money every week,” he said. It was true. But only because I went through a Friday night or Saturday morning ritual for nearly five years to collect $50, $60, $100, or even $200 from him at a time. In all, Jimme have given me, my brother Darren and my family at 616 (indirectly, of course) about $3,500 between October ’82 and August ’87. If he had paid his proper share in terms of child support (at least twenty percent of income), in those years alone, the child support payments would’ve been about $25,000.
No, neither I nor Darren lived with him. Still, my father had an obligation because he was our biological father and therefore was part of the reason we existed at all. It’s not much different when it comes to international issues like environmental protection, alternative energy and climate change. The developed world eats up most of the world’s energy resources, had exploited the resources of the developing world so that they could be developed, advanced nations. And has used the developing world and the oceans to dump much of its waste. It’s only fair that the developed world should bear the brunt of paying for all of these things that the world as a whole must face.
This kind of talk makes me sound like a socialist I suppose. Not really. More like a social democrat. It’s a shame that Western Europe, China, Japan, India and the US have yet to formally agree to reduce emissions substantially, to bring online new energy platforms on a massive scale, to clean up the messes made around the world. The geopolitics of this situation is like watching my six-year-old son Noah try to negotiate his way out of doing the right thing, because sometimes he can only see his own needs and wants. So much of what our world does is about looking out for self and only self, knowing full well that this deliberate ignorance hurts us all.
Of course, the US is the worldwide leader in narcissism. We act as if taxes are like cyanide pills laced with traces of plutonium, especially for the wealthy. We talk as if the progressive income tax is a penalty for success, and that the poor are poor only because they’re dumb and lazy. Yet it wasn’t all that long ago when the system actually worked, when government could be trusted (for the most part) to do the right thing with public funds and revenues.
And yes, after the Nixon, Reagan and Bush (both) years — not to mention the flaws of JFK, LBJ, Carter and Clinton — we have good reason not to trust our government to invest our tax dollars properly. But it’s not as if the rich are going to employ people to fix the US’s roads, bridges and rails. Or that the affluent will build a new power grid, solar collection stations, provide incentives for building cars that run on hydrogen, or create a system of postsecondary education and healthcare that is truly universal. That’s what our government is for. This is why we pay taxes.
Yet all neocons and others of a selfish nature somehow still believe after all of these years that it’s every man, woman and child for themselves. That taxes are bad, that giving more and more tax cuts to richest five percent will create an atmosphere of investment rather than one of greed. Didn’t we already go through this in the 1920s and 1930s? Isn’t this why the New Deal had to happen in the first place? To have a government that responds to all the people, and not just the ones with the ability to line politicians’ pockets with checks and cash?
In the end, we get the government that we deserve because sit in stewing envy and awe over the richest folk in our country while those folk have the ears of our leadership. We need to force the government to do its job of raising all boats, of holding politicians feet to the fire, of sharing and spreading the wealth of the nation so that even the poor actually have real opportunities to rise out of poverty. Only if we make our government care about these issues will those with major means actually care to share in tax dollars.
Ironically, by insisting on more loopholes and tax cuts, the rich in many ways are working against their own interests. As they should know, they can’t — or at least shouldn’t — take their riches with them when they’re dead. And as average folk, we need to pay our fair share as well. After all, to those of us who have reason to give thanks, we also have reason to share what we have for our own — as well as others’ — benefit.