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Everybody pitches in

When I was a kid, there was a person in the town where my grandparents lived who lost their business due to a fire. The whole building went up in flames, burning everything inside of it. Luckily, no one was hurt, but the owners and employees lost everything. Not only that, the town lost a source of fresh groceries. In that time, the town was very small, and it was either the government-controlled store (where everything was pretty much prepackaged and canned) or this little store, where the fruits and vegetables were fresh and the meat and poultry was from the very fields around the town.

The town lost a lot more than just a good source for food. The people who raised chickens in their backyards didn’t have anyone to sell them to. The people who raised small animals like sheep and goats also lost a place to sell meat and milk. While the cattle barons around the town could still sell their animals to the people living in the state capital (one hour away), they missed having a really, really, really fresh cut of steak. Then there were the employees of the store. There was a butcher, a few stock boys, a couple of clerks, and the owners themselves.

At that time and in that part of Mexico, there was no such thing as fire insurance. So they lost everything and had no way of getting it back. While the owners were well-off financially, they were not well-off enough to rebuild the building and pay all their existing debts from all the stock that was burned. So what happened? How did the town get back what it needed? Everybody pitched in. The owners got a low-interest loan from the state government, and the town got together and held a fundraiser for them. Everyone gave what they could. Enough money was raised to rebuild and restock the store.

The little town has grown into a small city since then, and there are more and more grocery stores and insurance companies to take care of catastrophes. But I learned from seeing that as a child that towns lost a lot when something happens, and that it is necessary to get together and pool resources to get things back to normal and up and running in our towns, states, and countries. That’s how I see taxes. I don’t really see them as a burden, contrary to the belly-aching I do when I see how much I’m taxed. Do I wish I were taxed less? Of course, but I also see that my taxes in the United States go toward some really big projects that benefit a lot of people.

Again, we could do better with those taxes, but I’m not about slashing cuts willy-nilly for political and irrational reasons. Take, for example, the recent cut-backs (aka “Sequester”) in the federal budget. You would think that they’re saving money and helping all of us have better lifestyles by us keeping more cash in our pocket, right? Well, not really…

But I don’t want to get into political rants right now because it’s Friday and I’m feeling good. Instead, I just want to leave you with an excerpt from this story on how cut-backs have affected air shows:

“First, the federal budget sequester grounded the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds as well as military demonstration aircraft for the entire season, and their pullout led organizers to cancel 63 shows, roughly 20 percent of the U.S. total. Since the scrubbed shows were among the season’s larger events, total airshow attendance and revenue fell disproportionately—by some estimates more than 50 percent.”

“Finally, near the end of the season, the FAA announced its intention to impose major fees for ATC services at aviation events large and small. The Experimental Aircraft Association was billed $450,000 for services at EAA AirVenture that used to be free, and EAA paid the bill while it challenges the FAA policy in federal court. Smaller events such as local airshows and aerobatic contests also face new FAA charges.”

“Major regional events such as the Navy’s “fleet week” celebrations in San Francisco and New York City, which traditionally draw more than 300,000 visitors each, weren’t held at all in 2013.”

If you sit there and tell me that not having these shows and events saves me money or benefit me financially, I am ready to counter you with the facts that these shows and events draw revenue to the communities. Small businesses, hotels, gas stations, and everything in between benefit when large numbers of people (including tourists) go to these things. All those people have to eat and drink. They have to stay somewhere. They have to use gas to get there. They may even fly there on commercial jets. Emergency medical services and police officers get paid to look after those people. Those people buy souvenirs. And so on and so forth.

That is, everybody pitches in.

Whether or not this can all be done cheaper and more effective is best left for another time. Again, it’s Friday and I don’t feel like arguing all the fine points of taxing and spending. But think of the positives next time you look at your paycheck and the taxes drawn from it. Think of how you’re not up in the middle of the night with a shovel because the road needs fixed. (Unless you are. In which case, I thank you.)

Have a great weekend, everyone.

[do action=”credit”]Featured image credit: WSDOT / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND[/do]

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René F. Najera, DrPH

I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
About History of Vaccines: I am the editor of the History of Vaccines site, a project of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Please read the About page on the site for more information.
About Epidemiological: I am the sole contributor to Epidemiological, my personal blog to discuss all sorts of issues. It also has an About page you should check out.

1 reply

  1. Like you, I have the experience of living where sometimes the infrastructure is not that great. Though from the sounds of it, they are improving in Mexico. In some, though not all, areas south of there, it is still kind of iffy. The government of the country we were in forty years ago decided that even though the members of the US military were there at their request, they and all their dependents needed a cedula (ID card). So several families went all together and spent the day at a special office filling out forms and getting pictures done. I never did get my own cedula.

    Trust me, I know what our taxes buy us. For my father, a retired Army officer, his career and benefits (including free health care from TriCare until his death). For our family it meant appropriate special services from our oldest child. Plus a good public school education for the other two, who are both at a very good public university. And since none of them want to drive, a decent public transport system. And because I do drive: maintained roads and traffic law enforcement.

    Oh, and as for the first paragraph of this article: a competent fire department close enough to lower my home owner’s insurance. Fire fighters were at our house about three times about two years ago when one kid had heart issues (first responders come for medical along with fire emergencies).


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