Letter: ‘Big government’ vs. short-sightedness

I read with great interest Mr. Gannon’s letter [“No Lunch Left Behind,” Feb. 16]. Clearly we are in an election year, as is evidenced by the ever-increasing drumbeat of “big government and big brother” talk I see in both our local and national media outlets. While I’m a bit sympathetic to the opinions expressed about the long reach of our local, state and federal governments, I’m just as concerned by the many instances of misplaced and underfunded priorities by those same government entities. Let’s reference the Rappahannock News for timely examples.

In the previous week’s edition, county residents learned that our jails are overcrowded and we will begin paying another entity to house our inmates. During times of high unemployment, crime always goes up but are we at a point where we have to pay another county (or will it be a private for-profit entity) to house our criminals? Haven’t our county taxes traditionally supported our own jail cells, even during previous high unemployment levels? If not, are our county’s priorities properly placed to deal with current law enforcement needs? What can we as a community do to help Sheriff Connie Compton Smith and her excellent team of deputies keep us and our children safe?

In last week’s edition, county residents learned of a possible 5- to 7-percent property tax increase to cover our county schools’ needs. Dig deep into this article and we find where this money would go: teachers’ pension fund, teachers’ health/life insurance, an increase in teachers’ pay, new buses for students, etc. I’m not suggesting our county teachers don’t deserve these benefits. They do. But a mere $51,000 for reading programs? If the feds and the commonwealth won’t send our taxpayer dollars back in sufficient amounts to cover our needs, then won’t our children take a back seat to children from other more well-funded counties?

Government, big or small, is about priorities. While I appreciate Mr. Gannon’s sentiments, the 7,000 residents of Rappahannock County must make choices. Today’s obese, unhealthy and overweight children are quite frankly the costliest benefactors of our healthcare system tomorrow.

Feeding our children healthy food doesn’t seem draconian if we accept federal dollars to run our schools. Frankly if we don’t like the mandate, then we don’t have to take the dollars and we’ll pay the price down the road. I don’t see our government telling us what to feed our children at home. That indeed would be overreach and worthy of outrage.

Bridges aren’t free. Roads don’t pave themselves. Schools don’t function from imaginary ATM machines. Now some may believe all of these should be privatized. Perhaps we should privatize the Federal Aviation Administration or the Food and Drug Administration. Perhaps we would be better off not knowing how much lead is in our water or our baby food or where planes are up in the air. Perhaps I just digress from reality.

Services by and from a civilized society cost money and when that money comes from taxpayer-funded government, then the government has the right to decide how that money is delivered.

I happen to be of the belief that government should help people when they need help and leave us the hell alone when we don’t. When it comes to the health of our children and the safety of our communities and roads, both of which are taxpayer-funded, I accept the debate between small versus big government. I do not accept, however, the false premise that every decision by our government is bad.

Jimmy Williams

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