A Dinner That Served Food For Thought

I’m going back about a decade but the impact of a conversation is still with me and the thoughts are worth sharing with you today.
The scene was a banquet hosted by an international corporation at its North American headquarters. (As an aside, the food was actually very good; not the rubber chicken circuit I was used to as a jock.) I was invited as a Board member of a non-profit organization that they had been generously donated to by the corporation.

At one point I had a one-on-one conversation with their North American president (who I believe is either American or Canadian) despite the company being headquartered in a Scandinavian country. He told me one of the hurdles he had to get over with his bosses was obtaining permission to make charitable donations. That concept was basically foreign (certainly, no pun intended) to them because where they came from all the social needs were taken care of via much higher taxes.

This reminds me of the trick American politicians of both parties play of not raising taxes but raising fees. The net difference is zero. You and I pay more money regardless of what you call it.

We can apply those same lesson to government and taxation. I’m a capitalist but of the European social-democrat bent. If considering that you want to call me a socialist, I will consider that a compliment.

Let us use the example of house hunting. Often HOA fees are involved. It becomes a question of both how much? And what does it include? If the HOA fees include a lot of things like homeowner’s insurance, utilities, internet service, etc. all of a sudden that figure really isn’t as high as it first sounded because you were going to purchase (read: pay for) those things anyway. Business decisions are made on the margin and the net. Perhaps this is a case where government should be run at least somewhat like a business.

The contrarians will argue why should they pay for something they don’t want or use. My counter is that you already do under the current system and have for decades. My generation will go back to the Vietnam War which many of us opposed but we still paid for it via our tax dollars. Perhaps a better example is the tax free status most churches enjoy. I am, and have been for decades, among the millions of Americans who are not members of any church yet we subsidize their existence by picking up their share of the tax burden.

To those who believe this is just a plea for another liberal giveaway to the lazy among us I will counter that not moving in this direction only makes for an exploitable underclass that is mostly permanent because once you are in it, it becomes basically inescapable. Only a few at the top benefit from that while many are disadvantaged for life. I fail to see the basic fairness in that, and Americans are, by and large, at their core a fair people.

This may be peripheral to my main argument but while I’m here I want to take on the custom we have in this country of tipping. Staying polite and PG while using one of Joe Biden’s words, it’s malarkey. If we go to lunch and I’m picking up the tab I mentally budget X number of dollars including the tip because I know that’s what it will cost me so why not just include that in the price. The only reason we tip is to subsidize the low pay. Wouldn’t it be a better system to pay the wait staff a living wage right from the get-go? I’m not saying that restaurant owners are exploiters. They are caught up in a flawed system and are, like most small business people, just trying to stay in business. Restaurants don’t have the best record of longevity!

Well, the dinner was good and if I’m still thinking about it this many years later, I got much more out of it than a meal. While I didn’t feed you, I hope I gave you some food for thought.

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One thought on “A Dinner That Served Food For Thought”

  1. Ask one who hates Socialism how he got to work today. Did he personally pay 100% of the cost to build the road on which he drove his car? That’s Socialism. And, by the way, I disagree with subsidizing religion.

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