People keep telling me I’ll get more conservative as I get older.

I’m 31 now, which is pretty young in the grand scheme of Maine, but I am most definitely in My Thirties, which most people think of as being A Real Grown-Up. So even though I mostly feel like a bunch of kindergartners in a trench coat pretending to be grown up, I am by all accounts an adult. I can tell from my lower back pain that I’m getting older. And, having bought my little home over a year ago, I’ve gotten my first property tax bill. For a 30-year-old mobile home on 1.9 acres, it is $1,348.42. (Yes, I’ll be applying for the homestead exemption soon.)   

I don’t love paying taxes. I will not be shouting “Woo hoo!” when I drop the check in the mail. Quite frankly, I don’t like paying large chunks of money on anything except clothes and scented candles. But the way I think of it is, if I made enough to meet all my regular needs with no concerns, I wouldn’t care about taxes. The problem isn’t the tax bill, it’s my low salary.

The problem is the rising price of food and other goods because of inflation and corporate greed. It’s the fact that like many Americans, perhaps most, I’m living paycheck to paycheck right now – I got the tax bill last week, and I can’t pay it until next week, when my biweekly paycheck hits my checking account.  

I think one of the reasons Americans target taxes as a problem, and focus on cutting them, is that it can often be hard to see what taxes get us. When you spend $200 on groceries, you can see the food in your fridge. One of the many good things about living in a small town is that I can see my tax dollars at work all around me. Here are some things that my yearly payment of $1,348.42 gets me: the transfer station, right across the road from me, where I can walk over my recyclables or drive over my bags of trash. Boom, instant easy disposal of all my household refuse.

All I need to show is the sticker on my car, and all the guys who work there know me anyway so they don’t check for it. (They also have biscuits for my dogs, but those don’t come from taxpayer funds.) I drive past the police and fire station on my way home. If, God forbid, my house caught fire, a bunch of trained professionals with equipment would show up and extinguish it free of charge.


We also have a police force. If I get attacked by a raccoon, I can call both emergency medical services (to stanch the bleeding) and the animal control officer (to arrest the cad). I get the roads salted in the winter to make it safe for me to drive. I get schools to send my future children to. My tax bill conveniently highlights the “school” portion of the taxes. If anyone knows of a school where tuition is $687.69, please let me know. And if you don’t have kids, think of it this way: Do you want unsupervised youths roaming around your town all day? No, didn’t think so.  

To me, government is not this big, scary, mysterious evil entity. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in small towns and have served as a literal elected official on town boards, but government feels like something I can reach out and touch. “The government” is basically just a bunch of people like me.

It’s always been confusing to me when elected officials complain about “the government” in a general, nonspecific sense. Like, dude, you are the government. (If you have specific beef with someone, that’s another issue. Everyone in local government has one personal bureaucratic nemesis. And probably the federal government, too.)

We still live in a democracy. Government is just a bunch of elected dorks like myself. I’m serious when I say that if I can be part of “the government,” everyone can. It’s mostly just meetings.

If government is our problem, it just means that we are our problem. People are the problem. Which means unless we are invaded and taken over by alien overlords (would that surprise any of you at this point?), people are going to have to be the solution.

The idea that government is a bad, scary, untouchable thing is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think an institution is inherently corrupt, worthless and unfixable, if you target it as the source of your problems, it makes you much less likely to participate in it, much less join it yourself.

If you think “the government” is beyond hope and improvement, you’ll ignore it. And so the cycle continues. 

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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