Charging down the street, sirens wailing, horns blaring, lights flashing ... cars pulling out of the way ... fire engines: pumpers and ladder trucks and rescue vehicles ... turning onto a side street.
My daughter and I were on foot heading for Trader Joe's, so being old fire-truck chasers, we walked up the side street a few blocks. There was no fire, so the firefighters took off their heavy coats. Was it a false alarm or did the homeowner put it out? We'll never know.
But what I know is this: I looked at all of that heavy equipment called out to a 4-story apartment house - millions of dollars worth - and the firefighters - their skill and bravery, willing to put themselves into harm's way for all of us - and I suddenly realized I was looking at our tax dollars at work.
That's right, tax dollars!
I mailed a letter the other day - these days a rare moment as more of us use email - but my letter traveled cross-country and was safely delivered to the right address on the third day (sounds almost religious, doesn't it?), and this happens millions of times a day.
I brought my son to LAX for a flight to KC.
I drove along the 105, the 405, the 110 ... later in the day, along the 5 and the 2.
All of this, and more, paid for with our tax dollars.
Here and now, I want to dispel a terrible lie ... here and now, it needs to be said, loudly and clearly and accurately and passionately: GOVERNMENT WORKS, AND WORKS VERY WELL FOR ALL US!
To suggest that "government is the problem," that "government is wasteful and inefficient" and "that big biz is the answer" - these are hideous lies.
I have had the pleasure (gulp!) of getting to know several industries rather well over the years - coal and steel in Pittsburgh, oil in Tulsa and autos in Detroit.
These massive and important industries were and often are poorly managed, with billions wasted on boondoggles and corporate perks, with tons of inefficiency and the blind-leading-the-blind when it comes to so-called innovation. In recent years, just ask an insider, billions have been shifted from R&D to advertising - unions have been busted, pensions slashed and benefits cut to the bone - to fuel corporate profits and to keep the Wall Street jockeys happy!
As we've seen with the financial meltdown, designed and driven by the big boys of American biz, along with the debacle of Enron and Bernie Madoff, big biz is anything but efficient, and hardly to be trusted with the welfare of this nation and our children.
Yet the lie of government failure continues to be spun a thousand different ways by the likes of Beck and Fox, big biz interests, Reaganphiles, and a host of gun-totin' wackos who love to tromp around in the woods, eating raw deer hearts, pretending they're fighting socialism, or some other imaginary enemy of true-blue White America!
America, wake up!
The next time you receive a letter, drive anywhere, get on a plane and turn on your faucet, you're celebrating the power and efficiency of our government.
In huge systems, there's always going to be waste and inefficiency - such is built into the DNA of life.
But to jump all over the exception is to miss the point - government is amazingly efficient, and, shall I say, real Americans support taxation - the heart and soul of democracy, and it's time we told the greed-peddlers and the wasteful big-spending corporate giants to take a hike.
We're betting on good government, not big biz, to run this nation, and run it well and bring us to the future. In the hands of the powerful and the wealthy and their corporate interests, our nation has nearly been ruined, brought to the brink of national and international disaster. Yes, big biz did this with it's headstrong drive for profit and it's entitled mentality, fostered in America by years of pampering and kowtowing to CEOs and their entourage, with the worst kinds of greed-inspired books and motivational speakers encouraging us to pillage the world for profit and the American Way!
Yes, I support more taxes ... to build schools and pave roads, pay our soldiers and support their families, providing our injured soldiers with the best of care - and a whole lot more.
Americans have gotten themselves upside down and backwards on the importance and necessity of taxes - greed rules the day, fueled by the constant drumbeat of advertising to buy this and to buy that, along with the lie - government is the problem. We've been driven to buy the biggest and the best, to have the latest trinket, gizmo and gadget, filling our homes and our rental storage units with the detritus of greed.
American, government is not the problem.
Big biz is the problem; it's always been the problem (just ask Teddy Roosevelt or the maid turning beds at the Hilton LAX) ... big biz without restraint, without adequate government-imposed regulations and government salaried watchdogs, and, of course, our own greed-inspired gullibility.
And who, you might ask, will watch the watchdogs? We the people, who go to the ballot box and write our letters, who read the newspaper, listen to NPR and surf the internet and occasionally think. We the people have made it work since 1776, and we the people will keep it working well into the future.
Hats off to good government and America's democracy! And pay your taxes with pride and gratitude!