Father Daughter Economics Class

A young woman was about to finish her first year of college. Like so many others her age, she considered herself to be very liberal, and among other liberal ideals, was very much in favor of higher taxes to support more government programs, in other words redistribution of wealth.*

She was deeply ashamed that her father was a rather staunch conservative, a feeling she openly expressed.  Based on the lectures that she had participated in, and the occasional chat with a professor, she felt that her father had for years harbored an evil, selfish desire to keep what he thought should be his.

One day she was challenging her father on his opposition to higher taxes on the rich and the need for more government programs.

The self-professed objectivity proclaimed by her professors had to be the truth and she indicated so to her father.  He responded by asking how she was doing in school.

Taken aback, she answered rather haughtily that she had a 4.0 GPA, and let him know that it was tough to maintain, insisting that she was taking a very difficult course load and was constantly studying, which left her no time to go out and party like other people she knew.  She didn't even have time for a boyfriend, and didn't really have many college friends because she spent all her time studying.

Her father listened and then asked, "How is your friend Audrey doing?"*

She replied, "Audrey is barely getting by.  All she takes are easy classes, she never studies and she barely has a 2.0 GPA.  She is so popular on campus; college for her is a blast.  She's always invited to all the parties and lots of times she doesn't even show up for classes because she's too hung over."

Her wise father asked his daughter, "Why don't you go to the Dean's office and ask him to deduct 1.0 off your GPA and give it to your friend who only has a 2.0.  That way you will both have a 3.0 GPA and certainly that would be a fair and equal distribution of GPA." *

The daughter, visibly shocked by her father's suggestion, angrily fired back, "That's a crazy idea, how would that be fair!  I've worked really hard for my grades!  I've invested a lot of time, and a lot of hard work!  Audrey has done next to nothing toward her degree.  She played while I worked my tail off!"

The father slowly smiled, winked and said gently, "Welcome to the conservative side of the fence."

If anyone has a better explanation of the difference between conservative and liberal or progressive or neocon I'm all ears.

Tax Cuts for the “Rich” (Ten Men in a Restaurant)

I was having lunch at a great restaurant with one of my favourite clients last week and the conversation turned to the government’s recent round of tax cuts. “I’m opposed to those tax cuts,” the retired university teacher declared, “because they benefit the rich. The rich get much more money back than ordinary taxpayers like you and I and that’s not fair.”

“But the rich pay more in the first place,” I argued, “so it stands to reason that they’d get more money back.” I could tell that my friend was unimpressed by this meager argument. Even university teachers are prisoners of a myth that the “rich” somehow get a free ride in Canada. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Let’s put tax cuts in terms everyone can understand. Suppose that every day 10 men go to PJ’s for dinner. The bill for all ten comes to $100. If it was paid the way we pay our taxes, the first four men would pay nothing; the fifth would pay $1; the sixth would pay $3; the seventh $7; the eighth $12, the ninth $18. The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

The ten men ate dinner in the restaurant every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement until the owner threw them a curve. Since you are all such good customers, he said, I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily meal by $20. Now dinner for the ten costs only $80.

The first four are unaffected. They still eat for free. Can you figure out how to divvy up the $20 savings among the remaining six so that everyone gets their fair share? The men realize that $20 divided by 6 is $3.33, but if they subtract that from everybody’s share, the fifth man and the sixth man would end up being paid to eat their meal. The restaurant owner suggested that it would be more fair to reduce each man’s bill by roughly the same amount and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so the fifth man paid nothing; the sixth pitched in $2, the seventh paid $5, the eighth paid $9, the ninth paid $12, leaving the tenth man with a bill of $52 instead of $59. Outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

“I only got a dollar out of the $20,” declared the sixth man pointing to the tenth. “and he got $7!”

“Yeah, that’s right,” exclaimed the fifth man. I only saved a dollar too. It’s unfair that he got seven times more than me!

“That’s true,” shouted the seventh man. “Why should he get $7 back when I got only two. The wealthy get all the breaks.”

“Wait a minute,” yelled the first four men in unison. “We didn’t get anything at all. The system exploits the poor.”

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. The next night he didn’t show up for dinner, so the nine sat down and ate without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They were $52 short.

And that, boys and girls and college instructors, is how Canada’s tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes, get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up at the table any more. There’s lots of good restaurants in Switzerland and the Caribbean.

 ***

 This is an allegory adapted from one published years ago in a Chicago Newspaper

 Thanks for listening to Charles Adler 

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