Back in November I exercised one of my most important rights as a citizen of the United States of America. I voted.

Yesterday, I exercised another of my most important rights as an American citizen. I paid my taxes.

I must admit, participating in the activities of last November was much more pleasurable. I don’t know anyone who actually enjoys paying taxes. But sending the rest of what I owed the government was, I believe, as important a part of being a patriotic citizen as pulling the lever to lock in my vote.

I don’t believe in sending in any extra. That would be foolish and could be viewed as arrogant. I don’t want the government labeling me as an arrogant citizen, boastful of my contributions to keep the Republic solvent, well maybe not solvent but at least able to pay most of the bills we owe.

I do, however, consider it a privilege to earn enough money to be able to contribute to the upkeep of my country. Do I agree with all the things my government spends my money on? Hardly. I never agreed with all the things any organization I ever belonged to spent money for; that includes civic organizations, churches, and fishing clubs.

But that activity of last November at least gives me a small voice in where the money goes. If I don’t approve of sending money to East Rutabagovia I can vote against whatever party or individual (if he resides in my state or district) at the next opportunity. If enough of us don’t approve, we’ll get someone else to replace said party or representative. That’s how it works, or how it’s supposed to work.

Now, if we could earmark our own contributions, I’d have a nice slice of the money I just sent in directed at things I think are more important. Education is one of my favorites. I owe most of the money the government taxes me for every year to a good education. I’m probably not fit for honest, hard, manual work, so a college degree has helped me immeasurably.

I’d probably earmark a bit to keep some of my favorite trout streams clear and clean, but that’s just selfish. I’d want a slice to go to defense, but not too much since the military may not be as frugal as we’d like to think.

I’d like to do a little more for health care, though I’ll admit I don’t have a solution to that complex problem.

And I’d like to see a fair portion go into the agriculture budget. Yeah, that may sound a bit selfish, too, since I make my living on the back of agriculture, writing about programs, products and producers. But having written about all those things for more than 30 years now I’ve developed a pretty strong appreciation for how important agriculture is to this country and to everyone in it.

And I have absolutely no qualms about a good portion of my tax money going to any program that helps an honest, hard working, dedicated farmer stay on his land after a year or two of hard luck. Hard luck happens. It comes in the form of low prices, bad weather and pest damage. And quite often hard luck is beyond the control of even the best farmer.

They had no recourse but to pay high prices for fuel and fertilizer last year and they could do nothing to make it rain or to quit raining when they’d had too much. And speculators in the market place are far beyond the reach of a West Texas or a South Oklahoma cotton farmer.

So I’d like to earmark some of my tax money to keep that safety net in place so the next hailstorm, drought, or other calamity doesn’t wipe out good farmers who just had a run of hard luck.

I’d feel good about the contribution and patriotic as well.

email: rsmith@farmpress.com