Keep services in mind when cursing taxes

October 28, 2009 | John Burbank

From the Everett Herald:

A couple of weeks ago I was speaking to a group of employees at the Everett Labor Temple. One woman raised her hand and asked how we were going to protect ourselves from the government taking our money for taxes. I asked her where she worked, and she responded that she worked for the Marysville School District. That means her family’s income depends upon us, the taxpayers. So I thought it might be handy to sketch a few equations that we tend to forget about.

Equation No. 1: Marysville School District and all other school districts = our government. They are public resources providing public education for all of our kids. They can’t pick and choose to get the “best” or the “smartest” or the “richest.” They take all kids and they teach all kids. That’s government, funded by our tax money.

Equation No. 2: Everett Community College and all other community colleges = our government. These are centers for higher learning, remedial education, job training and community enrichment. Their doors are open to anyone who walks in and wants to learn. If you complete your associate’s degree at Everett and want to gain a four-year degree, you can follow your nose right to the University Center of North Puget Sound on campus to enroll in programs run by Western Washington, Central Washington, Washington State University, and Evergreen State College. Everett enrolls over 11,000 students. It is the beating heart of learning, economic development, job ladders, opportunity for educational advancement, and community culture and activity in Everett. It is government, funded by our tax money.

Equation No. 3: Streets and highways (and bicycle paths) and buses and trains = our government. We are completely dependent on government the minute we hop on the bus to go to work, get into our cars to pick up the kids, or shop for groceries. Pretty much anything that requires getting out of the house makes us dependent on our government, funded by our tax money.

Equation No. 4: The fire department = our government. Back in the early days of the Republic, people tried to have mutual aid societies to prevent and put out fires. But fire doesn’t discriminate among houses, fields, or forests. So we have a public service, city fire departments and forest service fire fighting units that corral and put out fires. This is our government, funded by our tax money.

Equation No. 5: Police protection = our government. We are not paying private Pinkerton guards for public safety. That wouldn’t go far. We turn to police whenever we run into trouble. It is so natural that we often forget: Police are part of our government, funded by our tax money.

Equation No. 6: Social Security = our government. Social Security provides the foundation for economic security and independence for retired workers and their spouses, for widows and widowers, for disabled workers, for the children who have lost their mom or dad or whose parents are disabled, in fact, for one out of every six Washington residents. Unlike private insurance companies, it is tremendously efficient and reliable, with Social Security beneficiaries knowing that their checks will be deposited into their bank accounts on time every month. It is our government, funded with our tax money.

Equation No. 7: Medicare = our government. Medicare provides health care for seniors. It doesn’t throw them out because of pre-existing conditions (by that time, we all have (or are!) pre-existing conditions). It provides good, consistent health coverage when we need it the most. It is our government, funded with our tax money.

Equation No. 8: Parks = our government. Every time you go for a walk in a city park, or take your kids to a soccer game, or head over to the Forest Park swim center, you are benefitting from our government. In the summer you can take a free ferry to Jetty Island. In the winter you can sign up for ski trips and lessons. This too is our government, funded with our tax money.

There are a lot more equations. And each is dependent on government. So while it is easy to swear under your breath as you make out your property tax check (as I did last night), that money is going to our government for education, parks, roads, police, and fire protection, among other public services. No one else is going to make sure these services are available to you. In our democracy, government is the glue that enables our economic security and wellbeing. Let’s not throw that out.

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Posted in A Fair Deal at Work, An Inclusive Economy, Column, Early Learning, Educational Opportunity, Funding Public Services, Higher Education, Retirement Security, Social Security

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