Out of the Mouths of Babes

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This
morning, the day before Tax Day, I was at breakfast with my seven-year-old
daughter. I walked over to the counter to get my cereal and picked
up an envelope on the counter. "You know what this is?"
I said.

Elizabeth:
"A letter for me?"

Me:
"No. It's a check."

Elizabeth:
"A check for what?"

Me:
"A check for the government."

Elizabeth:
"What's the government?"

Me:
"The President, Congress, all those people."

Elizabeth:
"Why are they sending you a check?"

Me:
"No, I'm sending them a check."

Elizabeth:
"Why?"

Me:
"Because I have to. It's called taxes."

Elizabeth:
"Do you know the President?"

Me:
"No."

Elizabeth:
"Who are you sending it to?"

Me:
"It's a group called the Internal Revenue Service."

Elizabeth:
"The E.R.S.?"

Me:
"No, the I.R.S. Internal with an u2018I.'"

Elizabeth:
"How much is it?"

Me:
"Several thousand dollars."

Elizabeth:
"That's a lot. Why do you pay it?"

Me:
"If I don't they will put me in jail. Well, first they would
go to Wofford and say they want more of my check, and if that doesn't
work they would put me in jail."

Elizabeth:
“Do you have to pay taxes every year?"

Me:
"I pay every month. When I get money from teaching, they say
they want some of it. Every month, before I get a check from Wofford,
they get some of it. Then every year I have to see if I've paid
enough, and if I haven't I have to send in more."

Elizabeth:
"That's bad. That's stealing. You need the money to buy food,
and a house, and a car. That's breaking the seventh [sic] commandment.
Why do they want the money? Just to keep it?"

Me:
"No, they use it for various things."

Elizabeth:
"Like what?"

Me:
"Well, they buy tanks and airplanes, and pay soldiers and send
them to Iraq. And they give some of the money to people they think
need it."

Elizabeth:
"That's like robbing. Why do they do it?"

Me:
"They think it's OK. A lot of people think it's a good thing
for the government to do."

Elizabeth:
"They think it's OK?!? They're like King John, with the people
saying, "No more taxes, no more taxes!"

Me:
"King John?"

Elizabeth:
"Yes. The guy with the Magna Carta. We should have a Magna
Carta."

Me:
"We have a Constitution. That's sort of like a Magna Carta."

Elizabeth:
"Well, they're not using it very much. When I grow up, I'm
moving to England."

Me:
"In England it's worse. The taxes are higher."

Elizabeth:
"Well, I'm moving to Krakatoa."

Me:
"You mean Indonesia? The taxes are high there too."

Elizabeth:
"Then I'm moving to Salzburg."

Me:
"Austria? They're high there too."

Elizabeth:
"What? Then I'll go to Antarctica."

Me:
"They don't have taxes in Antarctica. There's no country there.
But it's cold."

Elizabeth:
"Well, I'll put on a million shirts."

Me:
"Time to go get dressed."

April
15, 2005

Timothy
Terrell [send him mail]
teaches economics at Wofford College in South Carolina.

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