Nobody likes taxes. In fact, I would say that most people despise them, especially in the US. However, they are a necessary part of our system that keeps our government running for our benefit. As much as I would like to think that the people here are good enough deep down to not kill each other off in the face of total anarchy, the fact is that some government is needed, and actually helpful.
Besides just keeping everyone in line, the various levels of government provide services that we can utilize. The thing is, most people don’t take full advantage of them. They might think they aren’t truly useful, or maybe say something like “I’m too high class to go the library or put my kids in public school”.
If your ego is really that big, you didn’t get beat up enough in elementary school. I mean come on, if you really think that just because you have a good job that you can’t show your face in an institution created “only to help the poor”, then you need to really look at the facts, and probably need to get your ego under control.
First off, you pay for public services, whether or not you like it. In fact, the more you make, the more you are paying. So why wouldn’t you utilize something you are already paying for? That’s like ordering a meal at a restaurant and throwing away 90% of it, and then eating again at home. If you are paying for something, you should at least get your money’s worth out of it. Not doing so is just losing opportunities and throwing money down the drain.
So what are the biggest public services people ignore or don’t take full advantage of? Let’s take a look at a few:
Perhaps the most underused of all public services in the information age is the library. The reality is that your local public library is like having your own private collection of books with a full time staff maintaining it. And that collection of books is most likely many times bigger even than your home. What could possibly be better than that? There are very few instances when I buy a book anymore. I just recently bought an electronic copy of The 4-Hour Chef, Tim Ferriss’s latest book. The only reason I bought it is because I have been waiting not so patiently for that book ever since it was first announced, and I know that getting the library copy would take months. Also, I wanted to help Ferriss get to the bestseller lists despite the fact his book was boycotted by thousands of bookstores for no good reason. Other than that, I can’t even remember the last time I bought a book. I can get virtually anything I want to read from my library, which is a short bike ride or walk from my apartment.
And despite the fact that libraries are such an awesome resource paid for by taxes, they are slowly dying in this day and age. I find this trend very disheartening, and hope that more people realize the library’s awesomeness and fight to keep them alive and thriving.
Another thing that just sickens me is when I see snobby parents send their kids to expensive private schools, all the way from kindergarten through high school. I grew up in the Sun Valley area, which is a fairly wealthy place in general. Consequently, there was both a public school system and a private school. The private school was fairly small, with each graduating class having only around 20 students. My graduating class from the public school had nearly ten times that. The private school sucked at sports, had few extracurricular activities and opportunities comparatively, and had older facilities. The academics there weren’t any better than those at the public school. The reality is that just because they spent more money in no way means they got a better education there. In fact, in many cases it seemed to be lesser. So in total, it would seem that the public school was superior in most every way. And yet, the private school charged over $20,000 a year for tuition. That’s more than three times what I’m paying for college.
Despite that steep price, people still were willing to put their kids in the private school. This has always amazed me. You’re already paying for the public school system, why would you pay more money to send your kids to a lesser school?
A variety of federal government programs have been implemented over the years to help out with different types of loans. Now, I hate loans with a fiery passion, and would never suggest that you get into any sort of debt. However, if you qualify for government programs that help you buy a house or go to school, you should seriously consider taking advantage of them. This is especially true if using those programs will allow you to do those things. With mortgages, you can often times get a loan from a government sponsored program with very little money down, meaning you can get into a home earlier in your career, seeing as you wouldn’t need to save up a large down payment. And if you absolutely have to take loans to get through college, make sure you get federally subsidized loans if you can, which drastically lowers the amount of total interest you will have to pay for those loans. Make sure you are careful when you look at student loans and pick ones that the government subsidizes. Your taxes are paying for them, and will continue to pay for others, so you may as well use them while you can.
People waste thousands of dollars every year commuting by car. It never ceases to amaze me how much money they can spend and how much pollution they can throw into the air instead of utilizing public transportation. This may not be true for a lot of smaller towns, but most cities have some sort of public transportation, whether it’s a subway system or bus system. They may not be completely free and paid for by taxes, but most are at least partially funded through public money. Public transportation is a perfect example of a service people choose to pay for and ignore instead of utilize.
A Note on Welfare
Now, welfare systems like food stamps and unemployment are public services that you do pay for through taxes. However, I do not recommend that you use them unless you absolutely have to. That may sound weird seeing as this whole article is about using things you’re already paying for, but let me explain.
Welfare programs have been created over the years to help the poor, as in the very poor. People that won’t be able to eat without food stamps or pay the rent because they can’t find work. However, at least in my opinion, they now cover way more people than they need to. Without making this too political, I find it odd that 47 million people are now on food stamps. You can’t tell me that one in every six people in the US can’t afford groceries. Most welfare systems are currently on the verge of breaking down, so I would politely suggest you don’t take advantage of them unless you absolutely need to.
The other part of that is the fact you should be doing everything you can to be a producer instead of just a consumer. And leaching off the welfare system is being as little of a producer as humanly possible. If I ever meet a person who honestly thinks they are doing good in the world by taking advantage of unemployment and getting food stamps they don’t need, it will be a very dark day.
There are of course many more public services available to the American people that are paid for through taxes and under utilized by taxpayers. Finding them and using them to their fullest allows you to get what you pay for, and save money in a variety of areas in life. After all, why wouldn’t you use something you have to pay for anyway?