Thursday, February 5, 2015

Thank You, Fellow Citizens and Taxpayers, for All You Did for Me

As I approach my 68th birthday, I need to do something I should have done many years ago: I would like to thank you, fellow citizens and taxpayers, for everything you did for me during my lifetime. Thanks to you and the governments you elected and financed, I have had tremendous opportunities to experience things and to do interesting work that would have been impossible if I had been born in other times or in places where society did not nurture its children, support public services, and provide economic and social stability.


First, thanks for creating the setting for a healthy and happy childhood. When I was born into a family of modest means, the event took place in a government-operated hospital subsidized by tax payers. For a few months, I lived in “city housing,” public housing with cheap rents. When I was growing up, a local government – elected and funded by residents of Fayetteville – paid for the buildings, teachers, and services where I attended schools. Also, they paid for the parks where I played and for the roads that took my dad to work where he could earn a living. When I think of the teachers who worked so hard to educate me and the coaches who challenged me, I have to thank everyone who provided tax money to pay them.

Thanks for the great college education. The people of Arkansas – through taxes paid to their state government – financed much of the cost of the two degrees I earned from the University of Arkansas (a governmental institution), including expenditures to build and operate a beautiful campus and to pay the professors who filled the classrooms with students. When I moved to California, state taxpayers there through their government financed a large part of the expense of the degree I earned from the University of California, one of the best public institutions of higher education in the world. Again, many thanks to taxpayers in both states for paying taxes that helped these universities have quality programs to prepare people like me for their future.

Also, I should also thank the taxpayers of the United States and Austria who provided funds for the Fulbright Fellowship program that financed a year of research in Vienna. That year was a highlight of my life. Many thanks! 

Thanks for a great job and interesting work. As a faculty member at the University of Georgia, a public university, taxpayers paid, in part, my salary. There, the numerous projects with local governments in Georgia and with partners in many different countries were financed at least in part by taxpayer funds. So, many thanks for the taxes you paid that helped fund my teaching and research, and the different projects in which I took part to improve local governments throughout the world.

Thanks for the great libraries. My research was (and still is) done in taxpayer-funded libraries operated by governments. I cannot imagine my life without these places. Thanks for paying taxes for the creation and operation of such centers of learning, thought, and exploration.

Thanks for a secure retirement.  In retirement, I depend in part on government-administered social security payments and Medicare. Both are managed reasonably well by the federal government, and, if I live long enough, both will continue paying benefits long after the amount of my contributions have been exceeded. Thanks for that security financed by the taxes you pay.

Finally, thanks for life-long national security and personal safety. Throughout my life, taxpayers have helped finance hugely expensive government programs that have provided national security and local protection. Because of these programs, there have been few threats of foreign invasions and most people have been safe from crime in their daily lives. So, thanks to everyone who helped pay for national defense and local government police protection, and even greater thanks to the people who take the dangerous and difficult jobs to carry out the programs.

I should also thank taxpayers for other things, such as the great roads that take me quickly from place to place and coast to coast, the airports at which I have spent so much time, the national forests and parks I have visited, and many other things have made life both more efficient and rich. Please include these things in my overall thanks.



Over the years, I have tried to repay the great debt that I owe taxpayers by cheerfully paying my full share of taxes to help finance government programs, even those such as public schools from which I get no direct benefit. I hope that some of you taxpayers (or your kids) have found them valuable. (Wouldn't I be a jerk if, after benefiting so much from programs paid mostly by others, I complained about having to pay my share of taxes for government activities that enable the following generations to have the opportunities I had?)

I have also tried to repay my debt to taxpayers by working seriously and hard to provide things of value (mostly knowledge, information, and skills) to students and to others who took classes that I taught, participated in the programs I managed, or read the results of my research. I hope that by the end my accomplishments will have justified the sacrifices made by taxpayers. If they don't, it was my fault and I apologize. If they did, I know I  didn't achieve them alone.

So, thanks again to all the people, past and present, who have paid their fair share of taxes, making it possible for people like me to have so many opportunities in life. I hope that I and others of my generation, and those that follow, will continue to pass along such opportunities to others.

3 comments: