Monday, February 21, 2011

I'm thankful for the GOVERNMENT

In solidarity with the protesters in Wisconsin, today, I'm thankful for the GOVERNMENT. I turned on the faucet this morning, and realized that I can thank my local public water treatment plant for clean water. I don't have to fear getting dysentery or other water-borne illnesses from drinking the water.

For a safety net
I thank the government for unemployment benefits and food stamps that helped sustain my family last year when hubby and I were both unemployed. Without those things, I doubt that he and I would be working again today. We probably wouldn't have been healthy enough to conduct our job searches, and we certainly wouldn't have had money for gas to travel to job interviews.

For libraries
I'm also thankful for the public library and state-funded job centers, where I could use the Internet (and print resumes and the like) for free to conduct my job searches. And I thank the library for books and movies that help keep my family informed, engaged and entertained. (We gave up cable and haven't resumed it).

For health care for children
I'm thankful for the government-run SCHIP program (State Children's Health Insurance) that helped keep my daughter healthy when we were unemployed.

For public parks
I'm thankful for the local public parks system, where my daughter takes ballet and swimming lessons for an affordable fee (cheaper than the Y!). And where we can go for a walk or play on a nice day.

For public transportion
I'm thankful for the public transportation system that allowed me to get to work for several weeks while my car was in the shop. Yes, commuting was a pain (it took 2 hours to get to work!) but I'm thankful I could travel to work and didn't lose my job because of lack of a car.

For student loans
I'm thankful that I have a college degree, paid for in part by government-backed student loans, college work-study and Pell grants.

For benefits for seniors
I'm thankful for the Medicare and Social Security benefits that are helping to support my mother in her senior years.

For public schools
I'm thankful for public schools. My kindergarten daughter learned fiction vs. non-fiction from her school librarian, she learned “pianoforte” from her music teacher, she just finished reading her first entire book independently ("Bear Hugs"), and she does math in her head. "Three two's makes six, right?" she asks me. "You're four years older than me!" she tells a 9-year-old. Thanks, public school teachers!

There are some who might dismiss my words here--they might consider me a freeloader for having had to rely for a while on food stamps and SCHIP (although I've paid plenty of taxes and have worked most of my adult life). But I doubt that those people haven't relied about as much as I have on government services. Almost all American families use libraries and publicly funded roads. Ninety percent of Americans are educated in public schools. A majority of seniors rely on Medicare and Social Security. Even the wealthy need to government--it provides the laws and security that protects their businesses and investments, the roads they drive on, the clean water I mentioned at the start.

So the next time you want to complain about the government (not that there isn’t always room for improvement), remember all the ways that you benefit from it, and from the tax dollars that sustain it.

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