All Commentary
Monday, October 1, 1962

An Average Citizen

Mr. Average Citizen is inconsistent and unrealistic.

According to the latest tabula­tion, I am not quite the average U. S. citizen (sex male).

To begin with, I’m several months too old, and my contribu­tion to the total population is well above average. My income is above and so are my obligations. The car is too new, but the house is too old. (Thank goodness, they don’t build them like that anymore.) Just how far from average those things would place a man is any­body’s guess.

Even though I am not quite average myself, I know this myth­ical man well. He is not a bad fel­low, really; just unrealistic and inconsistent at times. In baseball terminology, Mr. Average Citizen has a lot on the ball himself but is a sucker for a low, outside pitch. This is the man whose vote may determine the fate of the na­tion. I think it might be possible to acquaint him with the facts of life; but to get an idea of the workmanship required, let us take a good long look at the material.

Excessive taxes, lack of prog­ress, and general injustice are the primary subjects discussed.

First of all, Mr. Average Citi­zen dislikes taxes: federal taxes, state taxes, county taxes, and city taxes, including all fees and li­censes. Of the many federal taxes, the income tax is his favorite tar­get. It should be lowered drasti­cally or, better yet, abolished en­tirely. How did they manage to sneak that amendment through, anyway? Second, this is by no means his only complaint with the federal government. He thinks it should protect citizens better with a larger and better-equipped army, navy, and air force. All elements of national defense should be stepped up along with scientific research. There should be bigger and better satellites and a space platform. No expense should be spared to ensure our arrival on the moon and points “moonward,” well ahead of the competition.

State TaxesState taxes are excessive, oppressive and unreasonable.

State taxes are excessive, op­pressive, and unreasonable. The state has a sales tax, income tax, tobacco tax, and gas tax, just to name a few of the more irritating. Honestly, at the rate his state col­lects taxes, he wouldn’t be sur­prised at any time to hear that the Treasury vaults had burst and disgorged century notes all over the Capitol lawn.

Mr. Average Citizen has an­other, even larger, bone to pick with the state. It’s a crying shame that the people can’t have more and better schools, hospitals, roads, docks, state parks, and game and fish conservation. Teachers are underpaid, highways are inadequately patrolled, and prisons are obsolete. State old-age and disability pensions to the so-called hardship cases are too dif­ficult to obtain and shamefully small. Needed are more spacious and better equipped mental insti­tutions with more resident doc­tors and psychiatrists. The need for complete reorganization and updating of state orphanages is very real. The state should in­crease the size and personnel of industrial schools at least three­fold to obtain the best results. Successful rehabilitation of juve­nile delinquents should be stepped up.

County Collections

The county doesn’t collect an in­come tax but manages to do quite well for itself with assorted prop­erty and privilege levies. Why the county should need an ever-in­creasing amount of money is well beyond the understanding of a mere citizen. He is quite insistent, however, in his demands that the county builds a new courthouse, raise county employees’ salaries, and double the remuneration for jury duty. If he must pay taxes, the collector’s staff should be in­creased substantially—standing in line adds injury to insult. The sheriff’s office is inadequately staffed and equipped. The person­nel here should be increased, transportation modernized, and this office should avail itself of all the latest data concerning crime detection and prevention. Many roads and bridges within the coun­ty’s jurisdiction are obsolete. They should be repaired or rebuilt at once—especially those which Mr. Average Citizen has occasion to drive on.

The whole county school system is a mess—worse than that—it’s a disgrace. Classrooms are obso­lete and crowded. Lighting, heat­ing, and ventilation are well be­low par, and the school libraries are far from complete. Mr. Av­erage Citizen contends that the county should launch a school building program at once. Old buildings should be completely de­molished and larger modern plants erected in their stead.

City Costs

Last, but by no means least, there are municipal taxes. The city seems to have clamped a few mills or a few cents (several dol­lars in some cases) on all the items embraced by the other three and added quite a few of its very own. Mr. Average Citizen is pas­sionately opposed and pledged to fight for the repeal of the whole works, right down to the last mill.

As a public-spirited citizen, he will fight; if necessary, lead the fight for more and better-equipped playgrounds, pools, and recreation centers. There must be more and better-equipped fire stations, a new city hall, and several branch libraries. Many streets need re­surfacing, storm sewers are inade­quate, and there aren’t enough traffic cops during “rush hours.” He is ready to head a committee for a new, modern hospital and support the movement for renova­tion of the municipal auditorium. Existing facilities must be en­larged and at least three new ele­mentary schools, two new high schools, and one new college must be built each year if children are to be properly educated.

Average Citizen Too Busy To Be Concerned

The actual procurement and maintenance of all these improve­ments are of little concern to Mr. Average Citizen. The-powers-that-be asked for their jobs, let them work out the details. As for him­self, supporting four governments requires so much of his meager income, the proverbial wolf is for­ever gnawing at the portals of his dilapidated domicile. It has prob­ably occurred to him quite often to shoot the varmint and sell its hide to relieve his financial dis­stress. But alas, he can’t afford to avail himself of this pleasure. To do so would require a hunting li­cense, trapping license, fur ship­per’s license, and state shipping tags, state, and county privilege license, and a city permit.Mr. Average Citizen is wholeheartedly opposed to anything tainted with injustice, no matter how remotely. 

Thirdly, Mr. Average Citizen is wholeheartedly opposed to any­thing tainted with injustice, no matter how remotely. Graft, “pull,” “ins,” “outs,” corruption—every­thing with a semblance of unfair­ness or dishonesty is noisome to him. Kickbacks, ticket-fixing, and back scratching is a disgrace and should be stamped out. A social system wherein justice is truly blind and no man enjoys an ad­vantage over his neighbor—that is what he is working for. Mean­time—if the powers-that-be insist on favoring a few chosen ones; if it is absolutely impossible to prohibit someone gaining an advan­tage; if “ins” with the top brass just can’t be eliminated, then he will battle skillfully with every weapon at his command to make certain that the person obtaining such an advantage is ye olde tax-hating, justice-loving, crusader for progress—Mr. Average Citi­zen.

  • Mr. Raley is a free-lance author, speaker, philosopher from Gadsden, Alabama.