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From the American People

By Dr. Sujatha Prabhakaran

In the last week, Elizabeth Warren, Senate candidate in Massachusetts has gotten attention for pointing out that anyone who is successful in the US has done so not only at the hands of their own ingenuity and hard work, but also with the assistance of every other American tax payer.  She makes statements such as "If you run a successful manufacturing plant in the US, good for you, but you transported your goods on roads paid for by all of us.  Your factory is safe because of the police that all of us pay for.   You have educated workers because of the public schools that other Americans paid for."   To many people in the US, these statements point out a fact they don't pay attention to.  And in a way it is not their fault.  Maybe in an effort to be modest or to promote the idea of self reliance, the US government does little to promote all the services it provides for citizens.  

I like to consider myself relatively aware of the world around me, but it took me a trip to Haiti to realize the truth of what Elizabeth Warren is saying.   In the last few years I travelled multiple times to Haiti and if anything will make you appreciate government sponsored infrastructure like paved roads, it is the 5 hour 30 mile trip from Port au Prince to Grand Bois.   Can you imagine any 30 mile trip between two cities taking 5 hours in the US?  Luckily most of us cannot.  We take our roads and much other government sponsored infrastructure and service for granted on a daily basis.   

So then what to do to make this better?  If you have traveled to a developing country, you have likely seen signs at US sponsored projects that say, "USAID-From the American People"  Some argue that this is US propoganda, others would say this is taking credit where credit it is due.  Either way, there is no question when you see these signs who paid for the project.    

No one likes to pay taxes, but maybe if it was more apparent what those taxes paid for, people would be more comfortable paying them.  Maybe the departments of transportation and education, defense and heath and human services need to take a cue from the state department and start there own "From the American people" campaigns.  Imagine if each road you traveled on had a "From the American people"  sign or if each time you cared for a Medicare patient you finished your consultation with, "From the American people".   Ok, so maybe this is not the most practical marketing plan for the US government, but maybe better minds than mine need to think more about helping Americans see just how much we, through our taxes, provide for each other and help us to be as proud of that fact as we should be.     

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