Happy tax season! I bet I know what you're thinking. You're probably imagining me -- America's Cheapest Man -- hunkered down at home, lights out, windows barred, clutching my checkbook to my chest like a preacher gripping his bible at a heathen convention.
Well guess again. Even though I'm so tight that I squeak when I walk, I don't mind paying taxes. In fact, I think my tax dollars are one of the best investments I make every year.
My neighbor, on the other hand, complains incessantly about having to pay taxes. Yet he didn't flinch a few months ago when he shelled out close to $4,000 to have his twenty foot long driveway paved...which in turn connected him to more than 4 million miles of public roads and highways, paid for by tax dollars. Go figure.
Sure, some years I feel better than others about how my tax dollars are being spent. I don't like to pay for bombs that are used to kill people, or finance the salaries of elected officials who are dishonest. I cringe whenever I hear about a government-bought hammer that cost $700, particularly since I have a couple of spare claw hammers in my garage that I'd be more than happy to contribute to the public good.
But these days, despite the tough economic times, I'm feeling pretty good about the return I'm getting on my tax dollars, particularly when it comes to environmental dividends. After eight years of being MIA, it appears as if the Environmental Protection Agency is once again cognizant of its middle name: Protection.
For example, just the other day EPA signaled that it will finally make the endangerment determination ordered by the Supreme Court more than two years ago in the case Massachusetts vs. EPA. Under the previous administration, EPA simply ignored this landmark ruling regarding global warming, choosing to instead spend my tax dollars defending its inaction in court against lawsuits brought by the Sierra Club and other groups. I'm wildly optimistic that we may no longer have to battle our own government in order to get them to protect our environment.
And I'll tell you another reason why I'm happier about paying taxes these days. It looks like we finally have leadership committed to restoring a sense of pride in public service and encouraging America's best and brightest to spend at least part of their careers working in government or other public service.
Not since the days of JFK has a president from either party taken on this important mantel of the office, namely recruiting the nation's finest into government service. For too long, the popular thing for politicians to do has been to carp on government and disparage those who work in it. What an odd position for those who aspire to be placed in charge of the very system they seem to despise.
One of my favorite nonprofit organizations, the Partnership for Public Service, works tirelessly to make government the employer of choice for talented Americans. And it looks like the Partnership now has a strong supporter in President Obama, who recently said:
"I think that one of the missions I have as president is to, not create a bigger government, but to restore some luster to the federal government. To recruit the best and the brightest, and to say that service in federal government is something that is critically important to the well-being of the American people...I want to make government cool again."
Now those are words I believe in, and don't mind investing in with my tax dollars.
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