Virtually every person reading this column enjoys one of the greatest blessings that could be bestowed on any individual and we rarely think about it. We were born in America. It was April 30, 224 years ago, when George Washington took the oath of office as our first president, beginning a journey with an uncertain future. The success of this republic has been the envy of the world.
Particularly disturbing today is the strong anti-government sentiment we hear in so many quarters. According to a recent survey, trust in the government has decreased from over 75 percent in 1960 to under 25 percent today and 53 percent even feel threatened by the government. We give little credence to the fact that it is through government that our individual freedoms are protected, including our right to criticize it. We rely on government to correct injustice and to defend us when our freedom is threatened. It is the government framework that provides for our free enterprise system. Many of us owe who we are today largely to public education provided through the state. We are the beneficiaries of a wide array of infrastructure made possible through government. These include highways, airports, parks, ports, dams, public buildings, schools, colleges and military installations; many achieved in our lifetime. We also depend on a range of government services, including consumer protection, public welfare, disaster relief, research, Social Security, police and fire protection. It is ironic that so many of us demand these and other services but sense little obligation to pay for them. We live in a state that is well-run and has a relatively low tax burden. A real bargain is to be realized through the local taxes and fees we pay.
To secure the benefits of effective government, we must give up some freedom and it will be no better than those we elect to lead it. Many of the problems facing us today can be solved only by people working together through government. The guide for government involvement is that it should do what the people are unable to do for themselves.
If you think government is bad, imagine what things would be like with no government. This is essentially the situation in much of the world today. When we become super critical it would serve us well to spend some time in other parts of the world.
In providing for our needs, wants, greed, defense and the defense of others, we have amassed a huge debt. Now many people, some who profited most from this spending, are opposed to paying taxes to service this debt. This money was spent on our watch. We enjoyed the party, or permitted it to take place. We should be accountable, not our grandchildren. Uncle Sam can do his job only when we do ours.
Today, it seems that we are more concerned about our creature comforts than we are about our country. We need to revisit President Kennedy’s “Ask not…” challenge.
Page 2 of 2 - God bless America and happy birthday, U.S.A.!
Roy Shaver writes a weekly column for the Daily News.