The tax man cometh, yet both Brown students and the administration are not inviting him in for tea and crumpets, as is usually the case. Indeed, the response to the tax has been decidedly negative, with most opinion-makers decrying the proposed $300 per annum fee on out-of-state private college students. I can only imagine that the same situation prevails at Providence's other private colleges.
This all comes as a startling surprise to me. Typically I would be against such a tax on various grounds, but the very difficult situation in which we global citizens find ourselves mandates drastic action. We are in a crisis, and must fiercely resist the temptation only to think of ourselves and of what we may already provide. We must do our part, and more.
Through calculations which we must assume to be meticulous, the bill that both Mayor David Cicilline '83 and House Majority Leader Gordon Fox are advancing calls for our contribution to be $300. It is unconscionable that students would oppose such a small fee in times when our fellow beings are suffering so much and struggling so hard to make ends meet.
Some may say that Rhode Island's state government wastes nearly all of what it takes in revenue, but such naysayers should receive no hearing at a time when a failure to pass a bill necessarily means a failure of our country and planet. The patriots who support this tax must stand up and demand wallets to be opened.
Some may say that the proposed tax is illegal, in that it violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Jake Heimark '10 argued as such in his recent column opposing the tax ("An unfair burden," Sept. 7). Of course, these times being so dire, I should not even need to address an argument for equal protection made by a white male who has long benefited from the various power structures that categorically favor his success.
But suffice it to say that the wealthy economic royalists comprising Brown's student body deserve no normal equality. They think so too; just look at their support for the federal progressive income tax. They can give more, so we demand more. (In truth, the fee should be even higher — how selfish are you, anyway?) Let the students at public colleges enjoy that outdated legal concept, demanding equal protection.
And finally, some may say that students, too, are facing the same budget crunches in their personal lives that the city government is facing publicly. How simpleminded and provincial such a claim truly is! Have you forgotten the rallying cry of our generation, "Think globally, act locally"? The city government is only asking you to contribute the paltry sum of $300 per annum, and yet you can only fall to the ground and flail your legs like a child? Get that cash from an ATM; write that check; buy that money order; click that button on PayPal. Show that you care.
Now, for the sake of honesty, I should admit that I am exempt from the proposed tax. Hailing from Rhode Island, I am among the approximately 5 percent of students, according to a Herald story last week, who will avoid paying the fee. But that should not affect my argument one bit.
We as global citizens must do what we can, where we can. In this instance, you are called on to pay $300 per annum, and I nothing. An enlightened person should see why this is fair.
The sages in Rhode Island's various governments have not called on me to contribute in the same way as the rest of the Brown student population. We must not let this fact descend into a cause for bitter feelings, but rather encourage each other to realize how our leaders are taking affirmative action in a time of crisis.
This truly must be a celebration of how democracy leads to the emergence of a will that knows exactly how to address budget shortfalls. How glorious a solution this is, too: we get to solve a serious civic problem while redeeming ourselves through charity in the process!
Obstinacy cannot be our policy, nor negativity our tone. We must band together into one union and forget about the various life details that could hinder our contribution. These are the times that try men's hearts, and he who passes will kindly fork over the dough.
Sean Quigley '10 finds that cash payments make great birthday presents. He can be reached at sean.b.quigley (at) gmail.com.