Story Time

I haven’t written a story in some time.  So here is one. Kind of.

In 1995 I was a Mayor.  Of a Military Community on Fort Shafter in Oahu, Hawaii.  I can’t remember how large the community was, but it was at least a few thousand people, I think.

Anyway, being a Mayor of a Military community wasn’t very taxing.  I wore the white hat.  As the civilian mayor I just did good (or tried to).  We had the Military Police and the Military Chain of Command to deal with the unpleasant side of things.  As well of the Command Sergeant Major – an intimidating person no matter what base you are on.

When I first got to Hawaii my son entered the first grade.  He had to ride a school bus about a mile.  And he had to have two quarters every day.  One to get on the bus, and one to get home.  Parents could not pay in advance, not even in the morning for the afternoon ride.

As you might imagine, it is difficult for a 6 year old to hang onto a quarter all day, every day.  They are upside down on the monkey bars, wresting with their friends, etc.

Since I walked my son to the bus (and many parents let their first graders wait unattended), I quickly realized I needed extra quarters.  Every day 4-5 kids would not have bus money.  So I paid.  The bus driver was a regular, and she knew me very well – she knew I paid for a LOT of kids, not just my own.

And that is exactly why I was so irate when the school called me one day and told me that I had to come pick my son up because he didn’t have bus fair.  The school buses and the bus system were not controlled by the school.  A private transportation company (or the Honolulu bus system – can’t remember) ran the school bus system.  And eventually the bean counters realized that the bus driver wasn’t bringing back as many quarters as she should – even with my help.  So they pressured her into enforcing the "no quarter, no ride" policy.

We had one car, and my now ex had it.  The school was a mile away – down the mountainside.  Which meant I had to walk with (carry) my son uphill for a mile.

The next day I began a year-long campaign to get the rules changed, and to allow students to pay per semester.  Eventually they agreed to "bus passes" which you purchased (at no discount) in advance.  Still not a great solution for first grade kids to have to carry anything, but since the bus drivers had a list of who had paid, it was much better than carrying two quarters.

It took a lot of phone calls and letters but none of that really worked – until I found that telling the schools that "the mainland figured this out decades ago" caused some reaction.  I guess they didn’t like to be second to the mainland.  Whatever.  Life got easier.  And I was saving about $2.00/day giving quarters out to neighbor kids.

I can’t believe so many parents put up with that crazy system for so long.

It reminds me of the US Tax Code.  Nobody knows why it is what it is.  It just is.

And nobody thinks they can do anything about it.  So few try.

I really wish more would try – I wish they would let their candidate, and their elected official know that they are tired.  Tired of a confusing tax code.  Tired of spending so much money collecting taxes.  Tired of being surprised by what they owe, or what they are getting back. 

Our contribution to maintaining our government should not be a surprise to us.  We should know today, tomorrow, and two years from now what we are going to pay.  This is a simple math problem that has been corrupted and broken by politics.

I don’t think there is room for politics in our tax code.  Our tax code should be simple.  And it could be simple.

If only people demanded that.


  1. But here is the thing: even *if* the tax code were “fixed”…how do you stop the government from spending 40 cents out of every dollar on the military and only 4 cents of that dollar on education?!?

    There are so many things broken with this system of things that I suspect it all amounts to band-aids covering serious fundamental flaws.