Fire trucks, horses and taxes

Published 7:18 pm Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Her stroller was facing in the opposite direction when she first heard the sirens of the multiple fire trucks.

Those big eyes got even bigger and her arms waved excitedly when she saw the blinking red lights.

The firefighters waved at her and she squealed with delight.

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At seven months old, Laura is not able to say the words but her body language made it clear. She was at her first Mayhaw Festival parade and this was going to be a good day.

Her cousin, Henry, was sitting beside me sporting his new green Masters cap, when he saw his favorite, the horses. They regally pranced down the street as he pointed out the difference in each one to me. Pointing to one of the riders, he said simply “High.” I guess from the vantage point of a 2-year-old, it is pretty high sitting up on a horse indeed.

What fun parades are when seen through the eyes of children. Actually, it seemed like all ages were enjoying themselves on the bright April morning. Candy and beauty queens were everywhere. The Shriners put on a show with their go-carts that still makes me nervous if I am against the curb of the road. The band set the tone following just behind the politicians and dignitaries.

This was the last day of Mary Lou and I keeping Laura for three nights and four days. Her other grandparents also kept Laura, allowing Grant and Elizabeth to get away to New York for a few days on their first trip away from their only child.

Even though Laura has been around for a few months, I haven’t really changed her diaper since she was born. I kept her the first day of this visit while Mary Lou was in school. Laura broke me in quick, needing a diaper change almost hourly it seemed. By the end of the afternoon, I was an expert at changing diapers, making bottles, and feeding squash and plums, my personal favorite. Her cries and laughter told me everything I needed to know.

There is something about a baby old enough to recognize you and yet still dependent on you for their every need. Her smile is quick and easy and makes you instantly feel good about being around her. Laura’s eyes are as dark as Henry’s are blue. They are starting to interact together. By the next parade she will be following him everywhere.

Actually, the parade Saturday sort of rescued me from the funk that I had been in since the previous Thursday when I paid the last of my taxes.

“This is on top of what I have already paid?” I asked my accountant, already knowing his answer.

My father used to say that “If you don’t have to pay taxes, then you didn’t make any money.” I wonder if that is still true as I heard that for the first time more than 50 percent of American citizens will not pay any income tax this year. I also asked myself the question, “Am I getting my money’s worth as a taxpayer and a citizen?”

I don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for me, and I recognize that I have been blessed and have an obligation to help carry the burden for those that are less fortunate than me. I do so willingly. However, when that burden becomes so heavy that you begin to question whether you will continue to invest in your company or you start to focus on how to eliminate jobs, then I suspect we are getting things upside down.

For the past few months I have watched and worried about the health care debate and its impact on our company. Faced with that increasing cost, our high taxes, and the prospect of those taxes becoming even higher over the next few years, it is enough to put you in a bad mood.

Currently, the top 5 percent of the earners in our population pay more than 60 percent of our tax bill. Yes, there are some obscenely rich people in this country, but those in the top 10 are also people you know. They may be the doctor that heals your child, the businessman that hires your spouse, or the farmer that fills your table.

They may also be the factor worker that has invested in his retirement over a long career or the retired schoolteacher that lived frugally even as she taught your parents and your children.

Add the many other taxes all of us pay, including sales tax, excise tax, ad valorem tax and the so-called death tax, and it is no wonder that people of all wage levels begin to feel overwhelmed. There is a new poll out today showing that nearly 8 out of 10 Americans don’t trust the federal government and have little faith it can solve our problems. This is one of the lowest comfort levels in my lifetime.

Higher taxes, a disenchanted public, a lingering recession and distasteful partisanship politics have led to a sense of fear and massive discontent with Congress and elected officials.

When I was a boy, my father could make everything go away. He could always see the good when things were bad. He would take me to parades where I would see fire trucks and horses, just like Henry and Laura did at the Mayhaw Festival. One day, they will look back on these times and see them as good and carefree. I hope we can see it too.