Op-Eds Speaking Truth to the Powers-That-Be

Big Business, not Big Government, is the Real Big Brother

The 1% of the 1% and their agents like Grover Norquist have been selling “demon government,” but it is big business, not big government, that is the real Big Brother. The Norquist hucksters sell Big Government’s intrusion into your daily lives.  They want you spouting that the Big G government is “evil.” Government should be ripped to the bare bones. Boo. Hiss.

Our American government is the only thing that stands between their fascist 19th century capitalism and you.  The government is top cop, moral arbiter, and the only champion of the rights of the common man in a market-driven society.  In short, David, government is your Goliath that keeps the Koch Brothers, the DeVos, and the rest of the richer-than-rich from walking all over you even more than they do now.

Corporations may be “people” according to Citizens United, but they have no conscience.

By charter, a corporation’s only concern is the almighty bottom line. Profit and loss. Resources are to be consumed, turned into goods or services, and sold to consumers like you.

In their world, the hogs on the hog farm in the metal pens are not a whole lot different than the hogs in the households that sit glued to their Fox News snacking on the pork rinds.

The transformation of things from one state to another, their transportation, sale, delivery, consumption, and disposal, and the means to maximize those activities for profit are all that any business cares about.

Bottom line.

Some corps feign a little charity here and there, but it is a drop in the proverbial bucket to the bucket-loads of cash they strip out of your pocket.

When the Far Right drums its evils into our head we forget the most important thing: The government is us, and we are the government.

By way of your vote, however limited, you get a voice in the big picture of how a nation operates.  Big business needs to manipulate you into doing their will, because they still make the pretense that this is a government of, by and for the people.  To twist the government to their will, they need you to blindly vote their interest, and screw over your own.

Government sets limits on how businesses can exploit raw materials not arbitrarily, and, more importantly, how business can treat you as a consumer.

Who regulates the production of raw materials, and keeps industry from destroying the air, land or waterways?  The government. We all share the air, a river, and even the land that we live on.  Who gets more of it?  What prevents a company with the means to dam up a stream up-river from holding back the supply and making all the people down-river from paying a premium? Who sets standards for strip miners so the streams and rivers aren’t choked up with toxic sludge? Keeps companies from shredding old growth forests without proper forestry? Forces companies that pollute to pay up to fix their mess? Government.

Who provides protection from other governments and political movements that would harm American citizens?  National defense is the one government function that usually stays out of the Far Right’s hit-list, largely because the companies who make billions and billions off of the government can get the millions of people who rely on either the direct jobs that the military offers or on the host of supporting jobs, from building bombs to the guy who sells lunch to the family of the guy that builds bombs. It’s the one line of business that we’re not anxious to export to other countries, making it not only a cash cow, but a huge employment security center.  Want peace in our time?  Don’t count on it. It’s not good for the military-defense business.

Defense spending is excessive, but it hasn’t been all bad either. Innovations in defense have lead to spin-offs in technology that have fueled advances in metals, computers, aviation, and thousands of other applications that trickle down to civilian uses.

Government protects the quality of food and water supplies.  Don’t notice a ton of cases of water contamination?  From the local level, where city and county inspectors make sure that there aren’t rats and roaches running rampant in your ravioli and burger joint food, to the Food and Drug Administration which, imperfect as it may be, still provides the public safety from unproven drugs, safer, cleaner foods entering the food supply, and accountability for companies that try to sneak in potentially harmful additives to what you eat and drink.  A company selling acetaminophen can’t bring up cheap pills loaded with vermiculite and call them 100% Generic. Compare to Tylenol®.

Should the “nanny state” get involved with how much fat manufacturers put in ground beef, or how many calories are in a Twinkie?  Adding information to consumer packaging has allowed Americans to make smarter choices about what they consume, and, along with exercise and other good lifestyle choices, extend their lifespans.  That’s a big net plus for good government.  Had it been up to private companies, who have no moral imperative, you’d still have cigarette machines near schools, and they would put whatever trans fat was cheapest into your snack cakes.

Demon government provides infrastructure, from roads to retirement.  Roads, bridges, schools can be built and run for-profit, but that much additional burden on working Americans would take away the ability to pay for all kinds of discretionary spending.  Some larger social welfare issues, like safe bridges and the ability for the wealthiest nation’s senior citizens to lead healthy lives transcend profit motive.  The federal government can pool the resources of the greater nation.  A small town may never have the money to build a badly-needed bridge across a river, but with federal assistance, they can create pathways that move people and goods efficiently over long distances from coast-to-coast.

Private enterprise has been a frequent raider of employee retirement funds. Only a federal government which operates out of a moral imperative to protect its citizens, can “bank” money for things like Social Security and Medicare for the vast majority of Americans, and not have it subject to the whims of the market economy, or the greed of a few private entrepreneurs who want to get rich quick on the backs of workers’ lifetime savings.
The government provides the collective resources to do important “big things” without a direct profit motive, like set up early warning systems for tornados, or put a man on the moon. Neil Armstrong’s stroll on the lunar surface lead to legions of technological advances that are the bedrock of modern global communication systems.

Building bigger bombs is not a popular subject for most liberals, but the technology to theorize nuclear weaponry in “peacetime” that came from our nuclear reduction treaties with Russia has unleashed monster computing power that was initially employed to model nuclear weapon design, but now is used for everything from the production of your favorite action film to more environmentally sound packaging designs.

The government protects your life. Live in the forest? Who protects you when the trees burn?  Live in Tornado Alley?  Who comes to dig you out of the cellar when your house collapses over the door in a tornado? Do you really want to live in a place like South Fulton, Tennessee where they put emergency services out as a fee-extra? Can’t get private insurance for your single wide, so you get to watch your home burn to the ground, as they won’t “cover” a home without insurance.[1]

Government provides us a lot of security. Police. Fire. Ambulance. Air traffic control.  Customs. The Border Patrol. National Guard. Coast Guard.  TSA. FBI. CIA. NSA.

Griping about the government has become sport.

There are also times that the government watches out for people when they don’t always agree.  Americans have railed about seat belts, air bags, and helmets for motorcycles.  Decreased death rates and burdens on the whole system, though, are that “greater good” that we, as part of a community, give up a little of our individual liberty.  The Far Right always quotes the Framers about tyranny, blah, blah, blah. It says “We, the People,” not “We, the non-cohesive individuals out for themselves.”

The National Rifle Association (NRA) loves scaring its members with fears of their hunting rifles being taken away. They do it so assault weapons manufacturers can put highly lethal instruments of war into the hands of general consumers.  Government generally only objects because the handguns and assault rifles not used for hunting are generally aimed at law enforcement officials.

Big business, especially those of the Dead Billionaires Club (DBC) of pre-20th century capitalist families,  bristle at regulation.  The Kochs like to practice contango trading. Exxon Mobil would love to keep their windfall profits without paying a dime of tax.

“Little guy” Republican businessmen get their hackles up about “big brother” government. Who is the government to tell me that my sign is too big in front of my sub shop?  I can’t have a pool of pig shit the size of a small lake near the water supply of the nearby town?  The government makes us check three times to see that the canning line is clean, when once would do.  They won’t let us drill in that pristine wetland, even though we can get the oil out without too much disruption to the ecosystem.

Who is they? Never forget that the “they” is you and me. We hire people who become the big G government “they,” charged with keeping you and me safe. We elect leaders from our ranks who are charged with setting community standards for how our cities and towns will look that are what the people living there want, not necessarily what the guy trying to make a buck off of them want.

Companies and businessmen who don’t like the laws that restrict their activity lobby legislators and can take their case to court if they feel that they are being infringed upon without cause.  Oh, and our system of redress, the courts, civil and criminal, are part of demon government too.

More often, though, they try to co-opt the system, as they have been doing for decades, buying politicians and using organizations like ALEC to rewrite laws so companies like JP Morgan Chase can continue risky ventures and doing business without much scrutiny as to whether it serves the general good along with lining the pockets of a few.

Is there excess in government? Surely. Find any organization of humans, public or private, and you’ll find someone who is going to put together a boondoggle or two, from the Bridge to Nowhere to the $2B that JP Morgan Chase just lost on risky derivatives investing.

Republicans, pushed so hard to the Right by the funders of the party,  largely Grover Norquist’s Libertarian Teahadis, backed by DBC money, are part of the government that they have sworn to destroy from the inside.

What is the Libertarian-Republican idea of good government?  A government that minimally taxes the wealthy, protects corporations’ tax breaks, intrudes in the personal lives of its citizens to appease its religious base, and finds the majority of its economic savings in the wholesale slashing of agencies of the government which provide you, the citizen, with protection from corporate excess and greed. That’s also great news for them, as they would love to see most regulation ended.

Big business has spent decades demonizing the government. They hit you where you live. They crawl into your brain from every TV, newspaper, and radio.  They appeal to your greed, your lust, and most powerfully, your fears. They fill the airwaves with programming that sells cereal and gets you to vote against your own self interest.

American government has a lot less jolting messaging, because, by its charter, it serves the public interest.

The best idea for government is what President Obama has been espousing: Filling in those support roles that allow business to operate within broad limits that let the economy rise, create jobs and provide greater prosperity for all with proper protection for the common good.  Today the Far Right poses that as an “extreme” idea, when it was centrist just a few years ago during the W. era.  Today, by current Republican dogma, George W. Bush would be a fire-breathing liberal.

American government has a positive role in our lives, warts and all, on the whole. It’s time that Americans who say that we live in the greatest nation in the world start owning up to the bedrock of how we keep it that way.

My shiny two.

About Brian Ross

Brian Ross is a writer, screenwriter, political satirist, documentarian and short filmmaker who blogs for Truth2Power, the Huffington Post, and the Daily KOS, among others.

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