Sometimes a single letter can aptly put a whole issue in perspective. On the class argument on taxes, Bob H. e-mails the following:
"Let's put tax cuts in terms everyone can understand. Suppose that everyday, 10 men go to dinner. The bill for all 10 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 at 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 10 costs $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 his fair share? The men realize that $20 divided by six is $3.33, but if they subtract that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would end up being paid to eat their meal.
The restaurant owner suggested that it would be 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 eighty paid $9, the ninth $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 $2? 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 the tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up at the table anymore. There are lots of good restaurants in Switzerland and the Caribbean."
Some of you might argue that this little story trivializes the tax debate. But not me. I think it puts it in good perspective.
When opponents of tax cuts play the class game, remember that dinner scene and ask yourself this question: Who is feasting on whom?
The rich guy that got a break, but still paid the largest share of the bill, or the poorer guys, some of whom didn't pay anything at all? The rich guy could afford it and paid. The poorer guys could not and did not.
Some people want something for nothing and others say nothing for those who have something. I say, enough. Because the only one really feasting at this dinner is the guy who owns the restaurant. And the only one feasting at this ridiculous tax system is the guy who owns the trough — Uncle Sam.
He might like to keep us arguing like this. After all, he's getting the money and lately he's been feasting pretty well.
We give. He takes. We argue. He takes more. We stop and start thinking about the lunacy of it all, he takes out ads.
The problem, my friends, isn't the rich and what they pay, but the government and what it takes. Because trust me, the restaurant owner is happy and so is Uncle Sam.
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