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Time we make an effort to coexist with government
Somewhere along the line we have forgotten a major component of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. He said, “We are a government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
We certainly have the last part down. We think government exists to serve whatever need we deem necessary. We want programs to address social concerns. We want services to control various parts of society that we have issues with.
We want where we live to be safe, full of amenities and infrastructure in good shape. We want our government to be accessible, cost us nothing to run and only do what we want it to do. Too bad, that is not reality and never will be.
We forget that “by the people” means we are the government. It is not some strange entity that is divorced from us and the real world. It is made up of people who look like us, eat, drink and live lives like us. In fact, in Kitsap County, the vast majority of employed people work for some level of government, be it federal, state or local.
So, begs the question, how we can act as if “government” is the other? We also decide who we put in office — the folks who we charge with running the government that is us. And, it also is we who choose whether we want to either participate in our process that elects these folks. So, if we don’t vote and make our views known, we have only ourselves to blame.
“Of the people” means our government is of our own making. Our founding fathers created it and it is up to us to keep it going. In a sense, government is like “GIGO” with a computer: put garbage in, get garbage out. If we insist on unreasonable and/or unworkable laws, then we will literally pay the price in terms of costs to do the enforcement or oversight.
We also don’t want to pay much attention to what our government is doing until a decision impacts us. Then, whatever is being proposed had better be something we agree with or else it is the wrong one. The idea that our needs may have to be subordinate to others is abhorrent to us. It should always be someone else must make the sacrifice or be affected.
Our federal, state and local economies are all suffering. It makes it difficult to see we cannot just shut off the revenue that government collects from us — our taxes are vital to keep it going. Whether it is taxes on property, sales or income, they all provide funding that is necessary to keep government functioning. It is cutting our noses to spite our faces to continue to cut sources of monies for that which supports all of us.
Yet, that is precisely what some people want to do. Last weekend, a woman was collecting signatures at Central Market for an initiative to lower property taxes. My husband went to see exactly what it said and then wouldn’t sign it. That totally perplexed the woman. She clearly did not see the connection between reducing revenue to government and reduced services.
Whenever I teach state/local government at Olympic College, I try to get folks to understand that we citizens and our government are not separate entities. We are intertwined. We are interdependent. We need each other to exist. Trying to starve one will only end up harming the other.
Government needs to be fed, it needs money to survive. We are the only ones who can provide the food, the revenue. Government is not sitting fat and happy despite what some would say. It is essentially skin and bones. Are we really just going to let government starve when it is within our power to do something about it?
Val Torrens covers local issues for the CK Reporter and North Kitsap Herald.