My state, like so many others, is awfully short on money these days. There have been budget cuts and tax increases in an effort to make up the shortfall. However, some of these cuts have threatened my bottom line more than others and forced me to become politically active to save my money.
Most recently, my county has threatened to shut down our local library branch. While this may not seem catastrophic, to an avid reader and someone who depends on the library for her research needs, this is a very big deal. If that branch closes it will mean an extra fifteen to twenty mile trip for me to get to the next closest library. With gas prices rising, that isn’t feasible for the long term. Neither is it feasible for me to purchase every book that I need. Even used prices are much more than the “free” price at the library.
So I have joined the voices of thousands of others in my community to save the library. While my one voice may not save it, mine added in with thousands of others just might. Many others in my community will face the same economic burden as I will if that library closes and many of them cannot afford it. While I might be able to get by with other sources and products, many others cannot. It’s not about saving the library or making some stand about literacy as much as it is about saving our money.
A similar situation occurred last year when the county wanted to add a new tax for pets. Several thousand of us rallied against it and prevented it from passing. We were able to keep that money in our pockets. Situations like this are happening all over the country. Counties and states are cutting services and increasing taxes. If they cut a library, you have to pay to get your books some other way. If they cut a transportation service, you have to pay for an alternative, either in cost of fuel or in the cost of getting a car of your own. If they cut a medical clinic, you have to pay a higher price for private medical care or you have to travel to another site further away. If they increase taxes, you have to pay it. And the list goes on. It all ends up coming out of your pocket and costing you money that you may not have.
Your only choice as a consumer and a citizen is to make your voice heard. Write to your local, state, and federal representatives. The Internet makes it easy to find the right people to contact about your issue and to send them an email. Take the time to show up at a board of commissioners meeting and give your opinion, or at least be counted as a person registering dissent. Organize an online petition on a site like Facebook, gather the signatures and present it to your representatives. Take your case to the local or state papers and news media. If they report on your story, the word gets out to even more people who can rally against the cuts. Success isn’t guaranteed because the government will do what it has to do, but when your money is at stake it’s worth a try.
I understand that state and local governments are cash strapped these days. I get it. But just because I understand doesn’t mean I have to take service cuts and tax increases lying down, either. I think that as a country we’ve forgotten how to make a stink. We’ve gotten used to tax increases and cuts and we’re more apt to just suck it up and take it. But it’s my right to make a stink. I can lobby my representatives to find the money elsewhere (start with simple government waste, please). I can attend public meetings and make my anger and frustration known. I can make sure that our wealthy representatives understand what those cuts and increases mean to those who are strapped for cash right now. I can make it known that I will not vote for those who cut services. It may or may not work, but if I want to keep more of my money in my pocket, it’s the only choice I have.