All in this together

All in this together

October 16th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

It's the season for polls. They're epidemic. ESPN has 'em. The Weather Channel has 'em. Fox and CNN? Of course. In multitudes. Polls, polls, everywhere.

Is the president up in Ohio today? He was down 2 points in North Carolina Saturday afternoon. Or at least in the suburbs of Charlotte. The polls say the challenger needs to make inroads with left-handed female lawyers without tonsils in Florida if he's going to have a chance. Excuse our interrupting your dinner, but do you give Congress good or bad marks on its handling of the color of, and the fonts on, the new Medicaid cards?

The polls overwhelm.

But one poll that came out last week was -- get this -- actually interesting. Really. And more than a little refreshing.

The Fox News poll shows a majority -- a large majority -- of people in these United States believe all Americans should pay some federal income tax. Even if it's just a few dollars a year. The survey found that 79 percent of those polled say everybody should pay something.

Remarkable. The feds will tell you that 41 percent of filers didn't pay any U.S. income taxes last year. So there must be millions of Americans who didn't send a dime to Washington, D.C., last year. But at least a lot of them think maybe they should. What's this, evidence of a national conscience? Or just recognition that we're all in this together? Or should be.

The way the feds spend money, having every worker in the country pay at least a few dollars every April 15th isn't about to balance the federal budget. But every little bit helps, and a few dollars from 41 percent of the nation's workers could add up to billions of dollar.

Which would be what the federal government spent this morning before the alarm clock went off.

The object needn't be to balance the budget by getting that 41 percent to chip in, but to get everybody involved. Responsible. To make them stakeholders in society.

Would the effort be worth it? Yes, if it cuts down on the number of Americans who don't much know or care what the federal government spends -- because it's not their money. It's only the government's. That's a good way to breed apathy as millions are wasted every year.

So what if Congress spends days debating what should be the official sausage of the U.S. of A.? So what if the Pentagon overspent its budget for socks again? So what if some federal agency bought square pegs for round holes? Or if Medicaid is expanded to include hundreds of thousands of new enrollees even if it's having trouble finding doctors for those it's already got? It's just government money. Who cares? Unfortunately, a lot of Americans don't. And won't so long as they feel it's not their money the feds are wasting.

Every morning the papers are full of ways the government misspends taxpayers' money. Suppose everybody who drew a paycheck knew he was paying for all that waste every April. Maybe more of us would wake up instead of going, "Waste and fraud? Who cares? It's inevitable."

Suppose everybody did his share. It's a good daydream to have. And it doesn't have to be a dream. Especially if 79 percent of the American people got behind a change. And a real change at that, not just a slogan.

But is Congress listening? Or do we the people have to shout? Surely that can be arranged.