A few days ago, The Times published an editorial cartoon that compared “government” to a piggy bank, claiming that you put money in it, but never get anything back. While that sentiment may resonate with some readers, it is just not true.
Yes, we put our taxes into the piggy, but there are hundreds of ways we get benefit back. We get benefit whenever we safely travel over our roads, bridges and highways and when we eat food from restaurants and grocery stores without getting sick. We get benefit from the piggy when we use our smartphone GPS to map our way to our destination. Or when we use that same smartphone to communicate with others, or do personal research.
We get benefit from the piggy when we gather in public places without fear of plague or virulent illness. Or when medical research helps us live longer, happier lives. Or when our country is protected from external forces that would do us harm. We get benefit from the piggy when we read or hear a weather report, or when we send and receive mail and packages economically. And when we swim and boat in clean, safe rivers and lakes.
Why is the government piggy bank a good thing? Because our lives are made better when we work together, and “government,” whether county, city, state, federal or international, is the ultimate way for us to work together. Most of us rarely think about it, but “government” is the only entity of any size whose defined purpose is to improve the lives of its citizens. This is not true of your grocery store, your financial institution, your auto dealer, your insurance agent or your stock broker. As much as those kinds of organizations mean well, their ultimate purpose has to be profit, or they won’t last long.
Certainly our governments are not perfect so let’s work to make them better rather than trying to destroy them. Register to vote and vote in every election. Work to support candidates who want to make government better, not cripple it. And please don’t be like the piggy bank cartoon, which simply criticizes without offering a single positive recommendation.