On this page, after a brief inspirational moment, we offer seven reasons for caring enough to gain political proficiency and use it. Some of these reasons are benefits you get.
Many people are actively concerned about one or two issues.
Q: What’s more important than any of the following political issues?
a. Healthcare reform
b. The war on terrorism
c. Job loss / globalization
d. The national debt
e. Campaign finance reform
A: It’s having the essential knowledge and basic skills to affect all these issues—and cause positive change.
It’s having an informed
Reasons to care enough to get involved politically:
1. You already make the investment, through taxes—Political involvement gives you more value from your investment. Most Americans above the poverty line have invested thousands of dollars a year, through taxes. If you don’t get involved, you still will get some returns on your investment: police protection, paved roads, education for youth, sanitation, military protection against invasion, and hundreds of other benefits. But your involvement will make the difference in many other cases.
A problem with government that can’t be eliminated but can be managed is that people in government get to spend other people’s money—your money. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to spend other people’s money, you know that it’s hard to be as careful with their money as you are with yours. It’s human nature to spend it faster. So the way to manage the situation is to let people in government know that taxpayers like you are paying attention to how they spend your money.
If you become politically involved, you will rarely see the benefits come directly to you in the same tax year. Rarely will you see something visible, such as a community center built for you in your neighborhood, or a tax break. More often, the benefits aren’t directly seen by you. Sometimes your efforts benefit others; and sometimes their efforts benefit you.
2. Assurance/Insurance for the future: An even better reason for involvement is to assure and “insure” your future quality of life. Most Americans who can afford insurance buy it. Think of political action as another way to buy insurance for you and your family. Often government agencies not only waste tax-money, they fail to spend it on programs that adequately protect your health, children, community and property. Time spent in politics helps ensure that the services you will need in the near future and in the long run will be there when you need them.
The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina demonstrated what happens when people don’t keep an eye on government. Even those Americans not directly affected by Katrina were affected in the next few years. That’s because the government had to spend $100-$200 billion in repairs and aid, when they would have had to spend perhaps a tenth of that, had they been proactive. The extra $90-$180 billion will come out of your pocket in taxes; AND you will spend more because of cutbacks in other government services; AND you will spend more because of disruptions in transportation of food and fuel (gasoline and natural gas.) People will point the finger at officials who didn’t do their jobs, and they will deserve blame. Yet, given what we said about how people spend other people’s money, the quality of the government in the long run is the responsibility of the citizen voter.
If you want government to be proactive, you must be proactive. Proof Through the Night is a way to do that. Actually, pro-activity is much better than insurance, because insurance just spreads out financial risk among many people, but pro-activity cuts costs down sometimes threefold or tenfold. (“A stitch in time saves nine.”) So if you don’t pay now through political action, you will pay much more later, in heartache, anger or misery.
By the way, anger management is no small part of this for many people. If you are vexed by politics, you will keep feeling anger, disappointment and bitterness until you begin to take action. And even if your party or political action group doesn’t always win, you still can feel validated in speaking out and taking action.
3. Self-preservation. This is similar to insurance, but now we’re talking about your survival and existence, not just damage to your property from floods, or loss of property from theft (due in part to lack of police protection or lack of jobs and opportunities). Governmental action saves lives in many ways: It can eliminate industrial sources of carcinogens; decreasing violent crime; It addresses public health menaces (from the flu to sewage treatment); and it creates saner military and government policies that will decrease war and terrorism. In this century of weapons of mass destruction, it’s even more important to weigh in on national policy. Political involvement is a way to help ensure your long-range survival. In this century there are many reasons for fear and anxiety. More than ever before, it’s critical for people to take action to decrease this fear. One of the best ways to do this is to get behind policies that take care of people, and to dismantle destructive policies that harm people or damage key infrastructure (such as our natural environment, and our educational and health institutions.)
4. Long-range economic concerns. A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development states that over 60% of Americans ages 16-25 are ‘functionally illiterate,’ meaning they can’t, for example, fill out a detailed form or read a numerical table (like a time schedule). Ignorance of this magnitude must already cause great incapacity, inefficiency and waste in the American workforce, and the long-range impact is even gloomier. Political action is a prime way to try to reverse this.
Meanwhile, according to Dr. Marvin Mickle, a professor in three departments at the University of Pittsburgh, there is another source of concern. He said, “We will graduate 60,000 engineers this year across the country, but China will graduate 500,000 engineers. You might say that not all of those will be quality engineers, but if only half are of some quality, that’s cause for concern.”
If you aren’t already politically involved, the time to take action on things like educational standards, medical benefits, globalization, and Social Security is now. You may think it’s already too late, or that not enough Americans will get involved, or can get involved. But remember, Proof Through the Night has strategies to turn this around.
5. Politics is another means of doing good and helping others. Not everyone is interested in doing good, but most people don’t like it when others are oppressed politically, economically or psychologically. Bread for the World, a Christian anti-hunger organization estimates that money spent on political action leverages many more dollars to fight hunger than simply donating the money. So a little political effort can go a long way.
6. Some people gave their lives so you can live in freedom. Others dedicated their lives to public service. In any case, freedom is not free. We have been entrusted with a bill of rights. We must do things to preserve our freedoms, our rights and our quality of life. You know that most things in your personal life take maintenance—things in your home, your health, and even your personal relationships. Your freedoms take some maintenance, too.
7. The political system is a tool. All tools require some maintenance to keep them working efficiently. If you don’t maintain your home or your car, you know you will have to pay much more in costly repairs later. The same is true of the political system. Regular maintenance involves learning about the issues, voting and doing some advocacy for the issues you care about. It also requires some actions that improve the structure and efficiency of the political system itself. PTTN helps you learn about and take action on all issues, especially the structural issues that affect efficiency.