Alabama's taxpayers must be among the most maligned people in the world. No great number of them will see the letter I have written below, but maybe a few will, and maybe they will tell others. If you have the time and the inclination please help me promulgate it.
September 10, 2003
Dear Alabama Taxpayers,
Nobody else seems willing to do it, so I will. I want to thank you for all you have done for us here in Alabama over the years, and especially what you are doing now.
Federal, state, and local governments take 30 percent of your money from you before you ever see it. Each year you have to work from January till sometime in the spring to earn enough to pay these taxes. In earlier times such a confiscation of a person's earnings would have triggered marching throngs in the streets, if not unbridled rebellion. Yet you have peacefully relinquished your money in the hope that it would be well used for the betterment of all.
It is true, of course, that you have been many times disappointed. Your money has not always been well used. With disquieting frequency the politicians who received your money and should have behaved as fiduciaries have behaved as felons.
But even after mismanagement, waste, and outright thievery there has been money enough left to do certain things, especially with regard to education. You have paid for more than 100 school systems in Alabama, and for the complex and expensive buildings and equipment that each has. You have furnished each child in the state with a free education, and have even given him all the textbooks he needs. In many cases our students are picked up each morning, delivered to school, and returned in the afternoon, all at your expense. And you have paid Alabama's teachers more than the four states that surround us save one. In short you have provided today's students with opportunities and conveniences that were unthinkable in the recent past.
And if test scores mean anything, whatever of your money that survived its travel through the political labyrinth and reached the classroom produced good results. Our students score above the national average, meaning that they are outperforming more than half of the students in the nation.
Yet I see that some people are never satisfied. They demand from you more, more, and more-and then even more. And when you hesitate they revile you and say all manner of things against you. They accuse you of being ignorant, or stupid, and use words such as "dire" and "crisis" in their arguments for more of your money. They try to frighten you with predictions of dreadful consequences should you not heed their demands. In the shrillest of voices they denigrate their own state, hoping to make you feel guilty by falsely claiming that we are "last in everything."
And I'm sure you know: Whatever the shortcomings and failures of these people, nothing will be their fault. You will be expected humbly and shamefully to accept the blame.
Within my view, you, our longsuffering and indispensable taxpayers of Alabama, are the most underappreciated folk we have. But I, and I know others who have not spoken up yet, do appreciate what you have done for so many years and are doing today.
I just wanted you to know.