Trickle-Down for Tots: Is Sharing for Suckers?

It’s a crisp autumn morning. Brown and gold leaves litter the ground and are tracked into a Kindergarten classroom on the soles of tiny sneakers. Children shuffle into the room, hang up their jackets, greet their teacher, and settle in behind their respective desks.

The lesson for the day, the teacher has decided, is going to be about sharing. She’s discussed the virtues of sharing with her class many times before, but a memo she received during the morning faculty meeting has compelled her to revisit the topic. Simply put, budget cutbacks have made it so that the school can only afford half the reading materials she had requested for the year. That means her students will be forced to come to an accord regarding the distribution of the more popular books, but it is the teacher’s firm belief that even with such finite resources, things could continue along beautifully if everyone works together to share what little they have.

After about an hour of discussion and educational exercises, the children become restless and appear ready for a break. The teacher informs them they may spend the next ten minutes as they wish, so long as they remain inside the classroom.

One boy goes right to playing with a pair of shiny, red fire trucks he’s brought in for Show-n-Tell. The trucks are identical. They have working ladders and removable hoses and flashing lights – the whole nine yards. Of course, it takes two hands to properly utilize all those features, so the young lad is only able to play with a single truck. Nevertheless, he sits by himself, pitting one of his fire engines against an imaginary dollhouse inferno.

Across the room, another boy is also playing alone. Glancing up from his Tinkertoys, he notices the boy over by the dollhouse and then spies the unused fire truck. Realizing the dollhouse is on fire and likely to burn to the ground if more help doesn’t arrive soon, he runs over and offers to aid in the Barbie-sized rescue by manning the second ladder truck.

At that, the first boy stops what he’s doing and seizes both trucks, clutching them to his chest with a look of suspicion and jealous anger. He shouts, “These are MY fire trucks!”

The second boy, stunned but congenial, replies that he only wanted to play with the toy and points out that it was sitting unused anyway.

“But it’s still MINE!”

By the time the teacher calls the kids back to their seats, the boy with the two fire trucks has struck a deal with the other boy.

Flash forward to lunchtime. The teacher has now touched on every aspect of sharing she can think of. She’s confident her words got through to the children. All that’s left is to inform them there will not be enough copies of Ranger Rick this year to go around and hope for the best.

At the other end of her table, two boys are sitting across from each other, eating their lunches. One boy – the one with a pair of shiny, red trucks nearby – reaches across the table and snatches a pudding cup from the other boy’s hand. “I’ll take that,” he sneers.

“Fine, it’s yours. Now let me play with that fire engine!”

Curious and concerned, the teacher inquires as to what is going on.

“Joey and I have a deal,” says the boy with the trucks.

“What kind of deal?”

“He wanted to play with one of my fire trucks, so I am letting him play with it in trade for his pudding cup.”

“But, you have two trucks,” observes the teacher. “You can’t play with them both at the same time, so why not let Joey play with the other?”

“Because they’re MINE!”

“Yes, but you have more than you need.”

“But I can get other stuff…  like this pudding cup!”

“You already have one of those, as well.”

“Nothing to stop me from eating two pudding cups!”

“Haven’t you heard anything I’ve said in class today?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, then what’s to stop me from charging you a pudding cup just to read one of the precious few Ranger Rick magazines?”

“Go ahead! I have my own! I don’t need your stupid mag-zines!”

And then the teacher instantly realizes she’s spent her entire career misleading her students. All this time, she’s taught them to share, and in doing so has relegated the most well-meaning of them to be forever victimized by a supply-side world. The most gentle and generous will always give up their pudding cups for a few minutes with a shiny, red fire truck and the most deplorable will invariably be the ones with all the sheet metal and red paint.

The sudden epiphany breaks her heart and her will simultaneously.

Epilogue

An old woman sits in a rocking chair on the front porch of a small house. Though she appears to be daydreaming, she is in fact watching a group of children playing in the park across the street.

Her attention is presently averted to a man in his forties strolling up the walk towards her. Her eyes widen and a withered smile stretches across her pretty but timeworn face. Great excitement forces a small gasp out of her before allowing her to speak: “Why, Joseph Martin! As I live and breathe! Is that you? Is that really little Joey Give-It-Away?”

“Hi, Ms. Gamble. I happened to run into an old schoolmate who told me where you lived. I hope you don’t mind me dropping in on you like this. I wanted to surprise you.”

“Well, you’ve always surprised me, Joey, so I see no reason for you to stop now.”

The two of them sit watching the children and talking. Joey regales his old teacher with the anecdotes that best demonstrate the ironic virtue in being labeled “Seattle’s Socialist Senator”. He lists all the measures he’s championed on behalf of the poor and the homeless. He chokes up a couple of times recollecting certain significant victories he won on the behalf of people who couldn’t even vote.

“And I owe it all to you, you know.”

“How do you figure?”

“You gave me the foundation. I think Kindergarten teachers might be the most important teachers of all. We’re so impressionable at that age. We’ll believe almost anything. When you fell down that day in the cafeteria, I thought my lust for that silly fire truck had killed you. From that day forward, all I cared about was making sure everyone heard your lessons on sharing. I eventually made a career out of it.”

They sit in silence for a few minutes before Joey speaks again. “But enough about me,” he says. “How are things going for retired schoolteachers these days?”

Ms. Gamble stares quietly across the street. Joey wonders if she even heard his question. Finally, he turns his attention to where her gaze is fixed. Two young boys are sitting on a bench. They seem to have just met. One of the boys has a small cardboard box by his side and appears to be discussing its contents. Just then, he pulls two shiny, red fire engines from the box and hands one to his new-found companion.

“Wonderfully,” Ms. Gamble replies finally. “Things are going wonderfully for retired schoolteachers these days.”

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About kirkstarr

I draw pictures for a living.
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11 Responses to Trickle-Down for Tots: Is Sharing for Suckers?

  1. DKN says:

    *tearing up at my desk – fucking PMS!* This is so lovely, thank you for sharing!!

  2. GinBaby says:

    One commentator suggested that if Obama means what he says about no more politics as usual, then he should forego his presidential salary. He doesn't need it; they're quite wealthy without it. You think he's that into sharing? Or is sharing just for other rich people?
    When I read my son "The Little Red Hen" he always asks why the Little Red Hen doesn't share the bread once she's made it. I tell him it's because the other animals didn't share in the work. That's one reason why state socialism doesn't work out very well. Hens who are motivated enough to be constantly growing wheat and making bread get discouraged when they find most of their bread eaten up by lazy ducks. I know I would. Or more likely, I would just start hiding my bread, like overseas, where the ducks couldn't get at it. Damn ducks.

  3. bouche says:

    I love it Kirk.One of the things I hear is "gonna take MY/YOUR MONEY!" and it frustrates me. I understand cash concerns from the financially strapped but a bulk of those I hear it from are so not. I don't begrudge them anything they've earned. I don't want their shiny trucks. I would just simply love for them to experience why I feel how I do.

  4. G says:

    Thanks Acolyte of the dread one. i shall forward your post to my sister, whom is a schoolteacher.

  5. Kirk says:

    "…shall forward your post to my sister, whom is a schoolteacher." That would be "who is a schoolteacher". 🙂 I'd hate for you to be lectured by your sister.Love to know what she thinks!

  6. G says:

    BWAHAHAHAAH!!!
    Thanks Kirk you made my day. Probably not the way you think though….my little sister is a brilliant teacher. Some of the situations in her many classes over the years and how she handled them make that very clear to me. I am very much in awe of her skill, especially in something I could not even begin to think about doing. Honestly it would be beyond me. I would create a small troop of disciplined homicidal maniacs probably…the ones who survived anyway. However, her strong point is not really spelling or grammar…she would not have caught this (tragic!) error…I'm pretty sure…but she will laugh nonetheless! i sent her a link to your post. I am not sure if non voxers can comment, but she has been meaning to get a blog so….who knows.

  7. Very well put, GinBaby. You go, girl!
    Kirk, as you might guess, I don't care for the content of your tale, though I must say that I am impressed with the quality of your writing. It does an excellent job appealing to the emotions, which is no doubt what was intended.
    My problems with the content are twofold. First, you confuse Joey's work as "Seattle's Socialist Senator" with the moral act of "sharing". Instead, socialism is forcibly taking the property of one group for the benefit of another. This is by no means to say that I think "the poor and the homeless" shouldn't be helped, but that it shouldn't be done at gunpoint. But if our property rights aren't secure then, as GinBaby said, we might take them elsewhere. (France is experiencing this right now with an average of one millionaire a day leaving the country due to excessive taxation. And the taxes of a single millionaire represents that of dozens of non-millionaires.)
    Another error is the notion that the "haves" are unwilling to share. You state that the "haves" are "the most deplorable" and the "have-nots" are "the most gentle and generous". However, the "haves" are the ones already financially contributing the most to our society through their taxes, their massive contributions to charities, and their investments which create jobs and innovations. The top 5% of wage earners that Obama isn't willing to give a tax break to are already paying in excess of 60% of the government's tax revenues. In addition, as one of the "haves", I resent being called "the most deplorable".
    Finally, and most importantly, you fail to see the possibility of "both". That is, why not teach children to excel so they can be wealthy and also teach them to share? The wealthy can obviously share a great deal more than the poor. My bet is that you see our economy as a zero-sum game and that the wealth of one leads to the poverty of another, which is an all-to-common economic myth.

  8. Kirk says:

    Let me begin by informing everyone this post started out in my mind as a metaphor to explain the problems inherent in supply-side economics and became something bigger as I searched for an ending."I must say that I am impressed with the quality of your writing. It
    does an excellent job appealing to the emotions, which is no doubt what
    was intended."Thanks, Donovan; I appreciate that. The compliment feels a little back-handed, for obvious reasons, but I'm nevertheless grateful for it."First, you confuse Joey's work as 'Seattle's Socialist Senator' with the moral act of 'sharing'. Instead, socialism is forcibly taking the property of one group for the benefit of another."I gave no details, so the reader is certainly allowed to infer the nature of the measures Joey sponsored. It is important, however, to note that disparaging labels are seldom self-imposed. Details were left out for the express purpose of drawing attention to the label itself. What I was trying to do (and what a better writer would have succeeded in doing) was emphasize the notion that sometimes an ignorant label is nothing more than an ignorant label. Clearly, the sentence with the reference in question needs some editing.What Joey probably did was work at directing already existing tax revenue toward social programs helping those who would have no chance of success otherwise.But let me deal with the "share the wealth" thing directly, because there is a major detail conservatives continually and conveniently overlook, which is that equality begets freedom, not vice-versa. To illustrate this, I'd ask you to briefly consider life in America as a race run by millions of individuals. Now, we all must follow the same rules of the race: we cannot cut across the lawn, we cannot trip one another, we cannot take performance enhancing drugs, etc. Those rules represent "rights". Most conservatives see "freedom" as being hinged solely on those rules being enforced and that is the flaw upon which they are able to justify their cries of socialism. Their error is in failing to see that just having everyone follow the same rules (granting everyone the same rights) is, in fact, NOT the only thing upon which freedom is based. They forget a little thing called "equality". With regard to our race metaphor, true "equality" would be having everyone start at the starting line. Right? But a priviledged few get to start with several laps on the rest of us. Most have such a healthy lead, in fact, that the lead is able to sustain itself!Another error is the notion that the "haves" are unwilling to share… However, the "haves" are the ones already financially contributing the most to our society through their taxes…"Which is as it should be, IMO, since they are uninjured by the loss but the needy are injured daily for want of the most basic things."…their massive contributions to charities…"Please. While I'll agree there are some filthy rich people like Gates and Oprah who do actually give a lot back to the world, I also know that most rich people don't give enough, if anything. There is easily enough money in this country to feed everyone and still maintain a decent life for the fatcats, so the fact that so many starve every year proves the rich are not as benevolent and philanthropic as many would like to believe. (Now this is where you say "Maybe they'd give more if the government didn't steal their money" and a line of debate becomes a circle. Can you tell I've had this argument a gajillion times?)"…and their investments which create jobs and innovations."Considering this post is a direct attack on trickle-down, I'm surprised you included it here. The very basis for supply-side economics is, at best, disingenuous. I personally think it's downright Machiavellian.Don't get me wrong; it's not that I'm too stupid to see the benefit in innovation, but rather that I fail to see trickle-down working the way you and so many other proponents of it claim. WHERE is this trickle-down? All I see are sickening profits reported by huge companies (here's more) while Americans are simultaneously paying too much for everything from food to gasoline to medicine. Supply-side economics is an insidious lie used to make less-knowledgeable poor people feel undeserving and guilty for wanting equality.In fact, I'd love to know how someone building an unecessarily large bank account by gouging the common worker is benefitting anyone but himself. He creates jobs, but simultaneously subjugates the people with overpriced products and low wages. He spends his money in the economy, sure, but fails to share his record profits with his workers so that they can do the same. How can I expect a guy like that to give anything away? I can't. So I ask the government to help on behalf of those poor workers, from whose sweat and pain he made his billions. I feel like I'm repeating myself, so I'll move on."In addition, as one of the 'haves', I resent being called 'the most deplorable'."Understood. I can appreciate your feelings, though I'm quick to point out that unless you champion causes that actually do something to help the "have nots", you should probably learn to live with their derision. And since a big part of the right-wing rationale is predicated on the notion that we "have nots" are just lazy losers who should shut up and be happy with whatever scraps you "haves" see fit to throw down to us, I don't expect resentment to be all that unfamiliar. For my own part, I know I'm fucking hell of resentful everytime someone suggests I appreciate being under the trickle!"My bet is that you see… that the
    wealth of one leads to the poverty of another, which is an
    all-to-common economic myth."o_O Wha? Got proof? Because, yeah, I believe that in order for money to have any value, it MUST be a finite resource. It goes, then, that when one has an excessive amount, another must have equally less. To claim otherwise gets back to the whole "hungry = lazy" argument because it implies we can all be rich if we only work hard enough and that's just complete BS.Look, Donovan, I am an opinionated and angry man. I truly believe that too many people love their money so much they continually fool themselves in all sorts of ways to justify keeping as much of it as they can, even when they simply don't need it. I know there are good rich people and bad rich people; I write about the bad ones because they piss me off and I gotta vent. I have no ill feelings about you personally, so please don't take any more angst away from this post than it's worth.You complimented GinBaby on her comment. You should know that she left CimC for a long time because some of my opinions were expressed in ways that really ticked her off. I only recently convinced her to come back. I did this because, even though we do not agree on everything, she always has something intelligent and thought-provoking to say. I'm beyond happy that she's chosen to return.I would as readily say the same things about you and until today I actually thought you had stopped coming by. Your opinions may be the opposite of mine, but I sincerely hope you'll keep offering them.Well, my lunch is over. You took up the whole half-hour. You happy? 🙂 I kid, of course. I had no time to edit, so I apologize for any typos or bad grammar or poor word choices ahead of time.

  9. Kirk,
    Thanks as usual for remaining not just civil but polite when discussing politics with someone whose beliefs are obviously the polar opposite of your own. I'd love to rebut everything you stated, point-by-point, but I'd be wasting both my time and yours. It's clear that we're firmly entrenched in our opposing beliefs, and we don't really have a middle ground to start from. In short, there's just no point.
    I like to think that I have a unique perspective on these things because I've been poor and now am wealthy. Okay, maybe not poor as in homeless, but I was raised by a single mother and didn't have much as a kid. I got my education from public schools, dropped out of community college, taught myself most of what I know, and am now retired at age 44. I certainly didn't get here because I had a head-start, but because I grabbed the proverbial bull by the horns.
    When I first started my company back in late 1997, I was also working as a consultant. Working around the clock at two jobs – only one of which paid – was a huge sacrifice. For over a year I worked like that, with most lunches consisting of ramen noodles, corn dogs, or whatever else would cost less than $1. After over a year I started taking a small salary from my business and could spend a couple more bucks at lunch, but the long hours continued for years. For seven years I pretty much lost touch with most of my friends and family, and gave up most of my personal life.
    I could go on to tell you about the lessons I learned and how they reinforced the political and economic beliefs I'd already held for over 15 years. But, again, I'd be wasting my time because I'd just be another wealthy person trying to change your mind. Like I said, without having some middle ground where we both agree to start from, it's pointless. So, all I'll do is to ask you to do some Google searches on keywords like "economic zero-sum fallacy" and read up on some economics. What you'll find will probably be biased, but I'd appreciate it if you'd still give it a fair chance. If you have anything you'd like me to read, I'm perfectly open to it. Thanks.
    Donovan

  10. GinBaby says:

    I'm not sure I follow your reasoning about what conservatives think about freedom–though, from what I could follow, I think you're wrong–or how equality begets freedom. I think the main problem here is perhaps a problem with the definition of equality and how it is implemented in typical programs conceived by the left. I think, as I've mentioned previously, that I also think you misunderstand the reason why a lot of conservatives are against paying taxes. It often has less to do, though I'm not going to pretend to speak for Donovan, with the amounts of money or with compassion or helping people and more to do with the lack of accountability in how our government institutions spend it (for example, Congress gave away slightly over a trillion dollars just recently, despite widespread opposition from their constitutents who had actually earned that money) and the moral hazards involved in bureaucracies that inevitably make little distinction between people who have fallen on bad luck and hard times and deserve help and the ducks who just want bread without having to work for it.
    There are ways to increase equality of opportunity, such as offering better public education and/or vouchers, without undermining freedom of any kind, and so the net effect would be to increase freedom, probably.
    I will openly admit that while I think there are problems inherent in the structure of our economy, I am also not nearly as wealthy as I could be precisely because I was not willing to do the things Donovan describes doing. I have other priorities. I agree that that is not always the case–sometimes various combinations of bad luck and social factors do put people at disadvantage from the get-go–I see a widespread unwillingness to admit that a) most Americans, even in the midst of this crisis, are still better off than billions of the world's people (as evidenced by the race for Wii games on Black Friday) and b) most of us are, if we believe in free choice at all, the product of those choices. We could choose, for example, if we have good salaries, to live within those salaries and not take on debts that will do us in in times of crisis. We could choose a different career or to work longer hours or two jobs or to eat nothing but ramen for a few years and save the difference. Most of us don't and instead expect the government to take care of us. I am not accusing you of that, because I don't think that you do that, personally. But I see it in the general population, and I find it reprehensible.
    I don't want to oversimplify things, and we shouldn't. But I don't see the idea of taking responsibility for your own life being bandied about much on the left and while conservatives (to say nothing of Republicans) are sometimes disingenuous about this, at least it gets mentioned once in a while.

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