Perspective: Has Government Helped You?

Redwood City resident Suzanne Sellers Chowla said she has a long list of ways in which she’s been helped by government.

California's capitol

Photo: David Paul Morris/Getty Images

“I certainly wouldn’t want to be without a single one of the things … that government provides,” she said, responding to a question recently posted on Facebook by KQED News in conjunction with Perspectives, our listener-essay radio series.

Perspectives is airing first-person accounts in advance of the November election about politics, government and the future of the country. As part of that series we asked our Facebook followers for their thoughts: Why is government important? Is it doing too much or too little?

We received a few comments; the most comprehensive was Chowla’s, who said government has assisted her with her education, protected her right to freedom of religion and speech, and ensured she can get health insurance if she loses her job, among a list. It has set aside parks and open spaces that she enjoys.

“Whoa…this will be a long list if I try to be comprehensive,” she wrote.

We’ll be posting more replies in the future, both for and against the level of government in our lives.

Here’s Chowla’s entire comment as posted on the KQED News Facebook page:

Whoa…this will be a long list if I try to be comprehensive. Government helped me to: be educated, have beautiful open space and wilderness to visit and be inspired by, be safe in my home and community (by providing public safety personnel of many kinds), have my life saved by Fire Dept. paramedics, have roads to drive on to get places, have public transportation to get places, have safe food to eat, have my rights and interests protected and defended at home and abroad, have free speech, have freedom of religion (or no religion), have separation of church and state, have reproductive rights, have the right to a jury trial by my peers and legal representation if I need it (although I hope I never need that, I’m sure glad it’s there), have federal and state court systems to protect my rights, have the right to have a safe, non-hostile work environment, be able to continue my health/dental/vision insurance after a job loss, to have workplace rights (providing some protection against discrimination because of gender, race, age, disability or orientation), be much safer on the roads I drive on because of requirements for vehicles to be safe, for drivers to be licensed and insured & provision of enforcement of traffic laws, know that the water that comes out of my tap is safe to drink, have water coming out of my tap at all (mine comes from Hetch Hetchy), have decent air quality, have an environment that is at least somewhat protected for me and future generations (air, land, waterways, oceans), have embassies and consulates abroad to help out with issues that come up when traveling and living abroad, feel proud of our amazing all-volunteer military every day and to know that there is at least some structure for supporting them after they complete their service (although I wish there were more support for our veterans), have consumer’s rights when I buy products or services–so I can get what I pay for, have the internet (originally ARPANET, then DARPANET), have building codes so I can live in a safe, functional, comfortable home, have rights as a tenant/renter, feel safer knowing that people’s pet cats and dogs have to be licensed and vaccinated against rabies, feel safer when out for walks because dogs are required to be on leashes in most places (but I’m also glad that there are some places designated for dogs to be able to play off-leash), be glad that there are protections on endangered species and hunting restrictions where necessary so future generations can enjoy wildlife (and so I can continue to, as well), not have my sleep disturbed by excessive noise thanks to the existence of noise ordinances.

That’s just a very partial list, off the top of my head in a few minutes: there are definitely WAY more things than these items that government has helped me with. This was a good little exercise! It made me even more aware and grateful that I am getting a LOT for my tax dollars. And I certainly wouldn’t want to be without a single one of the things I listed that government provides.

Another response we received was from East Bay resident Bhaskar Sompalli. In his Perspective, which aired Tuesday, Sompalli said he is alarmed by calls to cut services provided by government.

“Since social programs actually do benefit poor people … eliminating them is tantamount to cruelty,” he said.

Sompalli cites his experience growing up in India to illustrate the importance of government services. Sompalli describes getting food from a government-run rations shop, attending a packed public school, and going to college on a scholarship. Sompalli talks about hot, crowded classrooms and waiting hours in line for food — but he concludes that the services he received from government were vital. You can hear his essay below: