Last weekend's open house at the District 4 fire station on Howard Street was a wonderful experience for everyone who attended, most of all my 7-year-old daughter.
We've recently moved to Walla Walla after many years abroad, and we were once again reminded of the many blessings we enjoy -- and hopefully will not take for granted -- here in this beautiful land. My daughter was born and raised in a place where ambulances carry no first aid equipment, horrific blazes routinely make headlines because safety codes are routinely ignored, and you've got to pay first before being admitted to the hospital for emergency treatment.
Although I love my country, I shudder to see signs all around me that show us slipping in that direction. In tough economic times, it is tempting to try to slash costs on all sides, but it's really slashing at the bones of our nation, to be possibly permanently crippled.
When we have strong infrastructure, everyone benefits and the entire country prospers. I'm sure I'm not the only American to be ashamed at how our health-care system compares to those of certain "developing" countries, or to marvel at how ridiculously cheap and easy it is to get a cellphone and great coverage in Southeast Asia -- just two examples of critical infrastructure that can either lure investors in or send them running for someplace else.
The hard fact is, the point of a free market is not to make life better for all of us -- the point is to make profits for investors, however tiny a pool of people that may be. It may be that some of us outside that group benefit, but that's certainly not the point and pretty much entirely a happy coincidence.
We don't benefit from wishing any differently or letting ourselves be lied to. There is a unique function for government, and that's to govern: To referee, to set standards and to act in the interests of the great majority, who use their every last penny to buy groceries and gas.
This time around, we must elect leaders with vision for the next century, not just the next fiscal year, or America will slip further behind and lose out in the years to come.
There are places in the world where people pay no taxes, and they generally have the nonexistent sewers, roads and ambulance services to match.