Thursday, May 10, 2007

No Tax On Families Of The Fallen

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about the sacrifice so many military families have been making because of the war in Iraq. Hard not to think about it, really. It is a condition that one must either acknowledge or ignore. To ignore it is to live in a bubble of sorts, and to acknowledge it is to bring a sense of helplessness, and even an element of pain, upon ones self. Neither option is particularly satisfying. But this could be any war, and at any time in our history. The sacrifice is the same. Whether I, or anyone else, agree with this particular war or not, the devastation to military families is profound. It is heart wrenching, and it is numbing. Parents are losing children. Children are losing parents. Brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, losing loved ones. These family members are irreplaceable. They are gone forever. There are many more left disabled, scarred and traumatized by both the violence visited upon them, and by violence they were commissioned to visit upon others.

I know that there are many casualties of war, many enemy, and many innocent as well as our own. It is the nature of war. And it is beyond regrettable. But it is how it is. I can no longer afford to feel the pain of every anonymous person affected by war. I used to feel all of it, and it left me, at times, compromised in my capacity to function. I need to function. We all do. I rest now in knowing that the anonymous casualties are not really anonymous. They are known, and loved, by someone also. They are only anonymous to me.

But my concern here, now, is for the American casualties and their families. I can afford to feel for them. They are close by. It has occurred to me that I, and many of us, have never sacrificed anything for the privilege of living in this country, a country we so easily take for granted, a country for which so many from around the world would risk their lives to call home. In a heartbeat. Well, those in the U.S military do risk, and even lay down, their lives so that we can call America home.

I am bothered by the idea that families who have lost loved ones in the military, in the service of their country, are still required to pay for the privilege of living in this country. It seems to me that they have already paid the definitive price, made the ultimate sacrifice, far beyond anything you or I could begin to know. I believe their sacrifice is beyond measure, and that we should honor it. In that light, I propose that they should no longer be required to pay for the privilege of living here. How forthright, and how simple, would it be for our country to no longer require the families of fallen service men and women to have to pay taxes. We, as individuals, are taxed as a means of supporting the infrastructure of this nation, the educational system, the penal system, our emergency services, military and government. It’s what we pay to enjoy this democracy (republic really), and to enable it to work on our behalf. In a sense, it is how we take care of ourselves. But it’s a relatively small price for us to pay compared to those who pay their own way, and ours, with the life of a loved one.

In today’s electronic world it would be easy to introduce a system of tax elimination for those deemed appropriate. A code could be embedded into credit and debit cards that would automatically exclude sales tax from purchases. One could carry and use an identity card when paying for an item in cash. A code could also be connected to ones earnings that would automatically exempt an individual from having to pay income tax on the earnings. Every husband or wife who has lost a spouse in the military, every parent who has lost a child, every child who has lost a parent, and every sibling who has lost a brother or sister would be exempt from sales and income tax for life. The immediate family. This is what I propose. It is one way we can begin to pay these families back. Ironically, it is these very people who would be the last to require such an accommodation.

At first consideration it seems like this would be an inordinate loss of revenue for the cities, counties, state and nation, but in the truer picture the affected military families are actually a very small percentage of the overall population. It is a classic example of the few sacrificing for the many. The least we could do is cover them the rest of the way.

If you find yourself in agreement with this proposal, please pass it on to friends, family, governors, senators, congressmen, or whoever you feel might be able to advance the concern.