We worked for it. Why should we pick up the tab?

Those who have the so-called ‘ability to pay’ worked hard for our resources and made sacrifices along the way

BRATTLEBORO — There is no end to the demand for new programs or additional or upgraded infrastructure in our community. A lot of the proposals can be very desirable but lack funding. In pursuit of funding, advocates routinely target people categorized as having the “ability to pay.”

Who are these people with the “ability to pay,” and how did they get it?

While there is certainly a very small number of people in this community who got it handed to them, I am confident in my assertion that almost all of the people with the “ability to pay” worked for it.

The following is some of my family history that I think many people can relate to.

* * *

I am one of eight children raised in a lower-middle-class family. The grandparents had eighth-grade educations, and the parents were high-school graduates. There wasn't any structured pre-kindergarten. (“Go outside and play - no screaming.”)

As these children approach retirement, they are all financially secure - some significantly so. Here's who they are, oldest to youngest.

First: Four years in the Air Force. Joined large metropolitan police force. Went to night school. Got degree in criminology. Retired as deputy chief of police.

Second: Straight-A student in high school. Got full ride to Stanford University. Retired physician.

Third: Loans and scholarships got her through state university with a bachelor's degree in medical technology.

Fourth: Twenty years in the Navy; 20 years in the nuclear power industry. Seven straight years in night school to get bachelor's in engineering technology.

Fifth: Scholarships and jobs while attending school. Master's degree in industrial health. Works for Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Sixth: Loans and work while at state university. Degree in civil engineering; professional engineer. Consultant and entrepreneur in natural-gas industry.

Seventh: Six years in the Navy. State university; acquired master's degree in telecommunications while working full time.

Eighth: Loan and scholarships. Bachelor's degree in business from state university. Law degree from Duke University. International IPO law firm in Palo Alto.

* * *

Again: these people in my family grew up in a lower-middle-class family. We got where we are by scholarship, military service, night classes, and a willingness to move around the country in pursuit of professional opportunities. They are all very good at what they do.

I think our stories are typical of many people in our community who have achieved the “ability to pay.”

I know that many of these people are not willing to hand over what they have earned to the “I won't, I'm not doing that, I'm not going into the military, I'm not moving” crowd, who want what they want but can't pay for it. They want people with the “ability to pay” to pick up the tab.

I believe that while there is a small group among us who got it handed to them, there is an equally small group of people whose circumstances precluded them from achieving this kind of success.

In between are all the people who needed to exercise self-discipline, show good judgment, be flexible, and work hard to acquire the “ability to pay” - here in the land of opportunity.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates