Some of the country’s most vital public services are invisible to the public. We all can see roads being paved, fires battled and students taught, and be grateful.

We can’t, however, observe the toxins kept out of our food by federal inspectors, or diseases identified in public health laboratories.

For 25 years, I performed one of those out-of-sight public jobs as a chemist for the state of Maine, mostly providing analyses that helps convict drunken drivers and keep them off our roads.

I like to think my colleagues and I provided a valuable service — as do countless other public servants.

That’s why it’s disturbing, in the current budget debate, to hear politicians claim we can bring down our debt exclusively by cutting “wasteful” government spending.

The implication seems to be that there are large numbers of unnecessary government programs and employees that can be eliminated with no harm to society.

Any thoughtful observer knows that few, if any, public programs have ever been established in the absence of a long-standing, clearly defined need otherwise unmet.

The sensible approach to deficit reduction is a balanced one: spending reductions combined with revenue increases.

President Barack Obama and Congress already have agreed to $1 trillion in budget cuts over the next decade. Before we cut any more, we should turn our attention to increasing revenue.

Tax cuts should be allowed to expire on annual incomes above $250,000. While affecting only the top 2 percent of American households, the restoration of fairer, Clinton-era rates would raise another trillion dollars over the next decade, which together with the cuts, would get us halfway to the president’s $4 trillion debt-reduction goal.

Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins should demand this tax provision in any deficit-reduction deal.

Harold Booth

Hallowell