In some cases, the fruits of our taxation can't really be utilized. I can't get at Social Security funds yet, but I can take some solace in knowing that my elderly or disabled neighbors & family members can benefit from my taxation. I may not be able to go to a public high school any longer and I may not have any children yet, but still, the community & nation benefits greatly from my property taxes anyway.
Even with the parts of government I can't directly access yet, everywhere I look in my neighborhood, I see underutilized public amenities and services. Thanks to Budget and the Beach's post, I am reminded to look around at my surroundings and realize all that my community has to offer. A lot of the best parts, I'm realizing, are funded by our taxes and accessible by anyone. Here are some great, random things I can take advantage of today:
- Parks and playgrounds, with dozens just a walk or bike ride away
- I can take in a football game at the local high school
- I can sign up for classes at a community college or state university to build my skill set
- I can participate in the programs my local government puts on: recreation basketball, softball, kickball, and flag football leagues...also, there are more pragmatic things like shredding my sensitive documents, free of charge.
- Like Phoebe at AllYouNeedIsEnough notes, I can go to my local libraries for free books and DVDs. And not just the library closest to me; the one in the next town or state over will send me a book, again, for free!
- Roads. My tax dollars pay for all these sweet, smooth roads. I can get out there and ride on them and appreciate the wonder that is our system of completely paved highways & streets connecting just about any two points I'd ever want to visit, with stoplights and stop signs and a dozen other helpful signs and freaking concrete paved sidewalks along both sides...
- Hell, that's its own point: I can take a walk on a sidewalk around my neighborhood and see it at the optimal pace: walking speed
- I can visit or camp in a huge network of stunningly beautiful national & state forests for a mere pittance
- I can send anything that fits in a box or envelope, with remarkable reliability, anywhere in the flipping world, through US Postal Service, still at a fraction of the cost of UPS or FedEx. And they'll come to my house to pick up packages and drop them off, five days a week! What kind of crazy pampered life is this?
- Edit: Here are some more to add to the list:
- Public Radio and Television. PBS & NPR have some of the very best programming around (my favorites are This American Life, the Freakonomics Podcast, & Car Talk), and maybe the coolest business model, too. Lean partially on tax dollars so everyone chips in a little, but then depend on the kindness of voluntary donations to stay solvent. And then the crazy part happens: people give!
- If I witness a crime, a fire, or get hurt just about anywhere in our entire country, I can call a single number and trained professionals will come sirens a blazing to rush care my way.
Sunk Costs and Frugality
Still, I can imagine some readers remain unconvinced by these observations, feeling that our current system of taxation is a bad deal for them, and they pay more in than they'll ever get out. Here in Arizona, I call these people "every one of my neighbors". Even if this list of totally rad activities and services isn't convincing, there's not a lot you or I can do about the taxes that fund them. We can vote, but our taxes are a sunk cost -- that money is gone and lost forever. Hell, in most cases, I never even saw the money.
But who cares? Like Snark Finance says, complaining is the worst. No matter what my political leanings are or how I feel about the way I'm taxed, it still makes sense to get out there and enjoy the fruits. So get out there and chill with Uncle Sammy. It's fun!
*Photo is from olo81 at Flickr Creative Commons.