When tax cuts came up during a televised community meeting in Australia, let's just say that things got a little ... toasty.
The controversy started during the May 9 taping of "Q&A," a popular panel discussion show on the country's public broadcasting network, when audience member Duncan Storrar asked an impassioned question about the country's latest tax cuts:
It's a valid concern. And Australian Assistant Treasurer Kelly O'Dwyer, who was one of the panelists, offered a, erm, less-than-valid rebuttal.
O'Dwyer launched into a tried-and-true refrain about trickle-down economics — a theory that's been repeatedly debunked regardless of how much people really really want it to work. But it was the example she used to prove her point that really raised some eyebrows. Referring to a(n imaginary?) small-business owner with a $2 million budget, she said:
Yup: SIX. THOUSAND. DOLLAR. TOASTER.
Upon hearing this, most Australians thought, "Who the &$%# spends $6,000 on a bloody toaster?!"
All across the country, people were moved by Storrar's speech — and dumbfounded by O'Dwyer's blatant disconnect from the struggling poor and working-class citizens, who the government should actually be listening to.
Our cousins Down Under rallied together and launched a tongue-in-cheek GoFundMe campaign to buy a $6,000 toaster for Duncan Storrar. Within two days, they raised more than 10 times that amount.
That's even more remarkable than the guy who raised $55,000 to make a potato salad. But while the impetus behind this campaign was similarly silly, it was also coming from a place of desperation and discontent with the ever-increasing rate of income inequality that's been spreading across the entire global economy.
Taxes are basically just a mandatory government-run crowdfunding campaign. And while you can argue about that supposed tyranny all you want, the fact that thousands of people willingly gave up their own hard-earned cash to help a man in need speaks volumes about the power of empathy and the far-reaching effects of community support.
The fact that governments across the world continue to eviscerate social benefit programs to give tax cuts to the wealthy is a disheartening affront to that same goodwill.
Governments should work for the people — which means all the people, not just the biggest breadwinners. So how come nearly 1 million Americans are losing food benefits while House Republicans are proposing an additional $98 billion in social program cuts? Why are 500,000 people in the U.K. losing their disability benefits, which many of them rely on to survive? Why are people like Australia's own prime minister hiding billions of dollars in potential taxable income in places like Panama and still getting tax cuts when the time comes around?
And how come when thousands of people opened their wallets and said, "This guy deserves a piece of toast! (Or, more accurately, to take his daughter to a movie once a year!)" the Australian government still ignored them?
Put mildly: That's not cool.
These phenomena obviously aren't limited to Australia. But a $6,000 toaster making front-page headlines is a pretty good indicator of just how absurd the problem really is.
Granted, there are some smaller businesses who would benefit from a six-foot-wide, double-racked toast-making behemoth like this. But what good is a $6,000 industrial toaster if the majority of your potential customers are too poor to afford a sandwich?
Maybe instead of concerning ourselves with fancy electronics, we should make sure everybody has their bread first. After all, you can't make toast without it. And if a couple thousand people were willing to chip in $60K in just two days to make one guy's life a little easier, imagine the difference it would make in the entire community if everyone did their part.