As a youngster, I worked in my parents’ air conditioning and refrigeration business. A typical day involved climbing up and down ladders, often lugging 30-pound jugs containing Freon to the rooftops of businesses. Or hauling tools from one place to the next, tinkering with high voltage equipment, crawling through the muck on the underside of a building or through a hot attic.
From around the age of 10 onward, I earned a small hourly income for my endeavors, and certainly not the minimum wage. Like most youngsters, I hated rolling out of bed in the morning to go to work. The weather was often inclement, the work was grueling and the rewards seemed too often very subtle.
But I loved the fact that each day brought new challenges and introductions to new people and new problems, and we solved problems, my dad and me. And I loved the fact that the money I earned was mine and I could put it toward whatever I wanted. And I wanted a lot, like a new color TV, to replace the black and white one I had in my bedroom, a small computer, a novelty at the time, and, eventually, a car.
The experience shaped who I am and my eternal belief in the value of hard work. There is nothing quite the equal to that of productivity on a person’s psyche and well-being.
No doubt the nanny naysayers reading this will be inclined to call the various government jurisdictions to have my folks arrested. They’re in their 70s now, and I haven’t been a kid in a while. I’m not sure anyone would be willing to prosecute.
I’m now a parent. It frustrates me how hard it is for my own kids to find work. The government discourages it with age restrictions, as well as work and time restrictions. But kids still like to earn money because they want to be productive, buy stuff, save for college or a car. Some need to work to help their own families make ends meet. The government says no. It says kids can’t work, but the families they’d like to support can apply for financial subsistence from the government. What a crazy world in which we live.
All of this brings me to the story of Tayson Weeks, a 12-year-old Pocatello boy who has been targeted by state tax commission employees and told to remit the sales tax the government believes he owes for the sale of raspberries at his summertime roadside fruit stand. This is the same tax commission which, in 2010, attempted to shut down a Lewiston pumpkin stand operated by kids ages 4 and 6.
Defenders of the tax commission will pound their chests and say nonsensical and thoughtless things like, “the law is the law and must be enforced at all costs.”
Well, the law is stupid and its application is even dumber. There are thousands of businesses operating in Idaho and finite government bureaucrats to monitor them all. The state loses money every time it targets a child. Tayson Weeks was saving money for a motorcycle; assuming he earned $1,000 from his fruit stand, the government’s take is just $60. This isn’t about the money. This is the government’s way of showing that it has the power to be a bully.
Rep Grant Burgoyne, a Boise Democrat, and Emmett GOP Sen. Steven Thayn get it. Burgoyne said, “the law as currently written could be costing the state and our children more than the value of the tax, and interfering with our children’s opportunity to learn valuable skills and lessons through their entrepreneurship.”
Said Thayn, “I find (the agency’s action) offensive. We should be encouraging young people to become productive.”
Thayn also concludes there are too many employees at the tax commission, a view I shared with readers a few months ago. It also tells me that Burgoyne, Thayn and 12-year-old Tayson Weeks know more about hard work and entrepreneurialism than the employees at the state tax commission.