Reading about former California gubernatorial candidate George "Nick" Jesson, who recently finished pleading guilty to state and federal tax evasion charges, reminded me of conversation I'd had with a friend a couple of weeks back.
I don't remember the specifics of what started the discussion, but a talk about long-term health care led to a conversation about which of her siblings would be responsible for her parents down the line. Speaking (mostly) in jest, she made the point that as far as she was concerned, she was already making a sizable regular contribution to helping address the looming problems of an aging baby boomer on a national level -- through payment of her Social Security taxes. "It's not only that I'm never going to collect a dollar," she said. "But it's that I don't even ever expect to."
Whether President Bush picks up the pieces of his failed plans to overhaul Social Security remains to be seen. The chatter coming out of Washington looks far more likely that he will attempt to turn the page next January and make a push on reforming the country's tax code. But in thinking about my friend, and my grandparents, and my parents, I started wishing that there was a better way to go about change than simply keeping my fingers crossed.
In a lot of ways, I suppose such things still come down to the power of voting blocks. If that 18-to-34 demographic was going to have even a remotely respectable turnout this fall, or in the fall of 2008, perhaps its concerns would be less abstract and would rate more attention than just oftentimes empty political proclamations.
Imagine if all the Social Security contributions for even say, people under the age of 25 were also tax-deductible. That'd be a nice gesture, putting the government's money where it's mouth is, in one form or another, to help the generation tackle its own looming problems of enormous college debt and the task of ever being able to have a mortgage payment.
Instead, we have Congress warring amongst itself over the future of the estate tax, which affects less than 1 percent of all Americans.
California's Jesson, who will shortly begin serving two concurrent 27-month term in prison for the tax evasion charges, finished fourth in the state's 2002 Republican primary while campaigning on an in-the-government's face anti-tax platform. At one point, he took out an ad in a national newspaper announcing that he had stopped withholding taxes for the employees of his businesses because the government had no authority to demand the money.
Things didn't end well for him, besides restitution that prosecutors estimate at about $238,000, he collected about just 1 percent of the Republican vote, in a primary race he would lose to future Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger among others. But Jesson at least had a message and a belief for business-owning constituents such as himself, and however radical his push against taxes, no one can say he didn't have a vision of the way things could be.
I'm registered for this fall's midterm Congressional elections. I just hope it doesn't take another three decades for a politician to think it's worthwhile to speak to my voting block.
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