What We Don’t See

Each day, I walk into Paresky Commons, where I’m given a seemingly unlimited number of options. Similarly, the library holds every resource I need to complete my History 300 paper. If I sense the slightest sign of illness, I know that someone will be at Isham 24/7 to help me. In my three years at PA, these things are what I’ve come to know and expect. And they have become just that: expectations. At a place like Andover, with its abundance of resources, state of the art buildings and amazing teachers, it can be easy to feel as if luxuries are commonplace. We get lost in the busy and demanding schedule of Andover, complaining about having to make the long trek from Gelb to Graves or having to attend another All-School Meeting. Yet the view from the top of Academy Hill is not one that many others share. There are 12 million unemployed people in the United States. In between the math tests and lacrosse practices, this figure is seldom more than a number for Andover students. While knowledge of the recession and unemployment rates are not hidden from us at Andover, we are isolated from seeing the worst of its effects. Even if our home life is affected by the nation’s financial struggles, most of us are distanced, at least physically, from home when we are at Andover. Even day students have the option of remaining at school for the majority of their waking hours. Luckily, the economy is recovering. Just a year ago, the number of unemployment was 1.1 million higher than today’s. However, if we went over the recently delayed fiscal cliff, these signs of recovery could be instantly shattered by high tax rates and another recession. In his article “Take a Leap,” published in last week’s issue of The Phillipian, Michael Michiue ’14 expresses his disagreement with the American Taxpayer Relief Act, passed on January 2, 2013, which extended the fiscal cliff for 60 days. Michiue suggests that “rather than delay the fiscal cliff. . . It would be better to deal with the debt by initiating the severe budget cuts and tax increases the fiscal cliff would bring about.” In reference to the consequences of such budget cuts and tax increases, Michiue writes, “although there will probably be a temporary recession and increased unemployment. . . This method is the most reliable and painless way to stabilize the economy.” The flaw in Michiue’s logic is its lack of consideration for the effects of increased tax rates on many Americans. To fall off the fiscal cliff would be to inflate taxes by 1-1.3 percent for each income level (up to $500,000). This tax inflation means that families earning around $50,000 a year would, on average, face a $579 tax increase. While this sum might seem perfectly acceptable to much of the U.S. population, 12 million unemployed citizens would disagree. To put it in perspective, $579 could fill an American sedan with 11 tanks of gas, and while losing 11 full tanks would be significant for anyone, it would be a staggering loss for those who have no source of steady income. If we step down from the top of Academy Hill, we may look at the fiscal cliff crisis in a different light. Although Michiue presents some good arguments, we cannot ignore the 12 million Americans who will be left out in the cold while the economy gradually stabilizes. Andover prides itself on its need-blind admissions process, but the school remains an inaccurate representation of America as a whole. While the observatory atop Gelb and the newly installed projectors in Bulfinch create an ideal environment for learning, these things are privileges, not expectations. Our reality is not the reality in much of America. While a $579 increase in taxes may not sound like much to many of us, to many Americans it can mean the difference between a meal on the table and going hungry—and we must never forget that. Stephen Moreland is three-year Upper from Andover, MA, and a Photography Editor for The Phillipian.