in praise of good government

I value good government and good government services provided on the local, state, and federal level.  There are many times I’ve relied on government, and it was there.  I am proud to help pay for it so it is also available for others and for me in the future — which as you will read will likely be later today.

The following is just a bit of how government has helped me become who I am now.

I attended public schools and am glad I was taught everything from how to read to trigonometry to how to compete in cross country.  I am thankful for Ms. Toy, Mrs. Spees, Principal Holte, Ms. Lemke, Coach Andy, and countless others who believed in me and taught me.

I am thankful for the school bus that picked me up each day.  There was no way I could have walked the 9.5 miles it was to Arcadia Elementary or High School.

For a significant period of my childhood, our family relied on federally subsidized free- or reduced-priced lunches because we were too poor to afford nutritious meals all the time.

For several winters, we received fuel assistance to help heat our shoddy trailer home because it was very cold, frost was collecting on our walls and floors, and my Dad’s job did not pay near a living wage.

Despite my great grades, college would have never been possible had it not been for Pell Grants and federally insured student loans.  Or, for that matter, a public high school guidance counselor telling me I could achieve more than the future I thought was already written for me.

While in college, I was constantly aware that the public university I went to was a state treasure.  The liberal arts education I received from the University of Minnesota gave me a much deeper sense of how to be a helpfully critical citizen and how to navigate a constantly-changing world.

I once called the Minnesota Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline to ask about my rights and find out a vendor was almost going to rip me off.  The government saved me a pretty penny that day.  The advice was given for free.

I took the city bus for many years.  It helped me get to school and work.  While on the bus, I caught up on the world’s events and sometimes took up talking to the stranger sitting next to me.

I’ve camped in, run through, walked around, and canoed poorly in many Minnesota state parks.  A couple of times a week, I walk my dog, Luca, around a city park.  I really enjoy these things as communal resources that everyone can use.

Each day, I drive on government-subsidized and maintained roads.  I sure don’t know who would keep our roads safe if it weren’t for the government.

A team of firefighters once drove by as my car was stuck in a ditch.  They stopped — six of them — and pushed me out.  They drove off soon thereafter to return to the station.  I had to do some research to find out what station that was so that I could thank them and their supervisor.

Sometimes I eat in restaurants that I know are periodically inspected for safety and cleanliness by local food inspectors.   It’s nice to know there are regulations that keep me safe when I, as an individual, would have no way of personally guaranteeing that safety.

I am thankful for the public servants that run for public office and do their best to reconcile competing interests with limited public dollars.  It warms my heart when I know that the taxes I pay help those in need, invest in our infrastructure, and help people achieve things they might never be able to do on their own.

It pains me that so many seem to hate government (e.g. its programs, its public servants, and politicians) but rely on many of the things government provides.  It also pains me that some of these people are consumed with taking away the things other people get from the government but think the things they receive are sacred cows.

I wish government was more active in advancing and enforcing civil rights.  I yearn for a government that better addresses the basic needs of those who regularly go without or live in substandard situations.  I think that Medicare for All isn’t too much to ask for, as healthcare should not be private good.  Some governments’ attempts to restrict voting are flat-out detestable and discriminatory.  Government should expand access and opportunities for voting.  And let’s be clear, our current US Supreme Court is wrong:  women should have control of their own bodies.

But again, I love Minneapolis and St. Paul, I love Minnesota, and I love this country.  Yes, I get angry about some of the things the governments of these places do … my anger usually results from someone’s desire to make government less available to those who need it most.  But on the whole, government makes life better for me, my friends, my family, my neighbors, and the larger community.

There is so much I would have never accomplished had it not been for the helping hand that government programs sometimes provide.  There are so many things I rely on (and I bet you do too) that government does to keep you safe.

So remember, the parks!  The roads and bikeways!  The educational systems!  None of these would be possible (except for to the very wealthy) if it weren’t for communities – local, state, and federal – banding together and doing them together.

For many, many years I’ve had a decent-paying job.  I gladly pay taxes.  In fact, sometimes I wish more was asked of me, especially when I hear about severe cuts in programs that helped me make it.

I am more than willing to pay, so I can continue to live in a city, state, and country I love.

(I wrote this essay in 2011 and have revised it considerably to reflect the current times.)

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