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

Government is Good


“Demon government.”  The government is too BIG. Big Brother infringes upon “real” liberty. Government is Eeevil.

Extremist conservatives rant and rave about gun confiscations and black helicopters. Extremist liberals rant and rave about the NSA and drones.

For the rest of us, the unintended consequence of the ongoing GOP shutdown of the government has been the discovery that, fundamentally:

Government is good.

American political life over the last week has been imitating comedy:

The Tea Party, in its mad headlong rush towards destroying America’s solvency, has been doing us a very unintended favor: The closures reminded us of how much good government does, and how involved it is as a generally positive force in so many American lives.

Sure, Teahadis tried to whip up anti-Obama sentiment with stirring footage of Greatest Generation vets storming the WWII Memorial like Normandy over the weekend.  Meanwhile they kind of neglected our soldiers in the Military Health System (MHS) who are experiencing reduced hours and cancelled appointments, but hey, that isn’t very Fox Newsworthy.

The denial of death benefits to the families of soldiers killed abroad though did make news. Everywhere.

We found out how much routine stuff that the the government does to keep us safe as we lost a raft of inspectors that check the safety of our airplanes, ships, trains, oil rigs, and nuclear power plants. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was unable to investigate two major accidents. We’ve lost inspectors who check our food supply. Keeping us safe is a good thing.

Interestingly you didn’t see Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin marching up to the front door of the National Institutes of Health this weekend. No foot stomping about the shutdown of the website where clinical trials are registered that prevented people dying of terminal illness from time-sensitive procedures that may save or prolong their lives, or that flu shots that save the lives of elderly people that were suspended because of the lack of funding.

We saw programs like Meals on Wheels suspended in parts of the country where the states did not step in.  Head Start was saved by a generous $10M private donation of a 38-year old retired Wall Street Hedge Fund manager.

Some of the worst damage in the government shut down has been to a pillar of the temple of Reagan Republicanism: Private contractors.  Thousands of companies from the private sector work for the government.

Even when the shutdown is over, if government employees are made whole, government contractors get no such compensation. Some are looking for other jobs, which impacts their companies’ ability to perform, losing quality workers. Most companies will pay their employees, and then stick larger bills for their services on the government for the risk involved in dealing with all of the instability.

Television and radio are rife with stories of hardships cropping up over things we take for granted. Everything from hunting seasons and crabbing seasons suspended, to permits to operate businesses slowed or stalled that can have significant financial impact on fledgling firms.  Need to do statistical work? Census data was unavailable.

“Due to the lapse in government funding, sites, services, and all online survey collection requests will be unavailable until further notice.” [1]

Some states temporarily took over funding of national parks whose closure was costing their economies millions of dollars a day.

Companies that provide services like small plant nurseries and contractors doing certain types of construction work, and those bidding on major infrastructure projects, are likewise being affected. [2]

Much of what America has accomplished as a great industrial engine has been through government funding of massive infrastructure, research, and development.

Science funding often might seem arcane, but billions in research have landed a man on the moon, developed rapid commerce and communications systems like the Internet, advanced medicines and health technologies, synthetic fabrics, high impact plastics and provided a standard of living for the planet that continues to rise.  I’d tell you how much impact that has, but the National Science Foundation (NSF) website is down as a result of the shutdown too.

Government is about a system of laws that protect businesses and citizens from civil and criminal harm. We have the greatest law enforcement systems in the world, flaws and all.

Complaining about government is the true National Pastime. No one likes being told that they can’t do something. A farmer bristles at a regulation that runs afoul of their fouled hog waste pond. Fisherman freak when a limit is set on how much of a particular fish species can be hauled in. Wall Street rails against reform of the practices that led to the 2008-2009 melt-down and the Great Recession.  The largest noise comes from the NRA and the Tea Party crowds, the largely white, largely Right folks who fear the rising tide of the minority majority more than they do the meat inspector or the DEA agent. When they talk about “taking our country back,” does anyone ask from whom, or if you live South of the Mason-Dixon and wear funny hats with tea bags, from who?

An NBC/Esquire poll found that 79% of people think that government spending is wasteful. [3] Yet just like the discrepancy between polls about the evil ol’ “Obamacare” and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), you find that polls are hugely influenced by the thousands of hours of propaganda that flood the airwaves. If you believe polls, we believe what those with the billions to tell us to believe, believe.  Although, maybe not.

On the specifics, Americans are all for clean air and clean water, for emergency services and protection of our health and food supply, protection of our borders, etc.

The one thing that 40% of Americans can agree upon cutting is foreign aid. [4] They inflate the number though. Aid is a measly 1% of the overall budget. Our citizens polled are largely for the humanitarian aid, and/or the good that it does our defense businesses.  Don’t give money to Egypt? Sure, but you unemploy a few thousand workers in California and Texas making advanced weaponry toys for governments like Egypt that pay the bills and add to our GDP.

Everyone is for Social Security and Medicare and the ACA when you don’t call it “Obamacare.”

Ironically, the single biggest waster of money, our military-industrial complex, is probably the most supported of all.  It could be argued, in defense’s defense, that many of the leading-edge technology efforts they fund reap huge dividends in the economy as advanced materials, improved telecommunications, and other advances that the military pays for are moved into the private sector.

Teahadis rail at the 35% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that we spend on “government.” $5T of SOCIALISM. (Insert sinister organ music HERE). The number is misleading.

Huge chunks of that money are moving along that is our collective money. Social Security is set aside from paychecks. The government does not take it in as a tax. Social Security invests that money in government bonds, which, until the Teahadis came along were the only real bedrock investments in the world.

Also the “big government” lie isn’t supported by the data. Government has been shrinking since the 1970s, and shrunk under Clinton and Obama. The only time that it actually grew during over the last 45 years was during the Reagan and Bush I & II years. [5]

Politico Reports:

“For most categories, a plurality of Americans want to keep spending at the same level. Even among Republicans, there’s majority support for only two cuts: foreign aid and unemployment assistance.”

Is there waste and fraud in government? Sure. Every human enterprise has it.  It’s just not where most Right wingers tend to think it is.

The Far Right sells minority loafers and white-trash ne’er-do-wells sponging off the government.  Waste and fraud more often than not comes from middle class and affluent folks ripping off the system, and government contractor rip-offs.

In fact, the Association of Certified Fund Examiners found that government is not the prime target for fraud:  Wall Street tops the Government in both the waste and fraud categories.

Middle level managers, not welfare queens commit the most fraud, not recipients of aid. [6]

People in most parts of the world would tell you that, as governments go, we have one of the best in the world. More than a quarter of the world’s population has to pay bribes to get their government bureaucrats to do anything for them.  While our politicians are, in the post Citizens United world of  campaign funding, highly bribed,  civil servants in the nuts-and-bolts side of government are pretty straightforward.

We’re losing billions of dollars to the shutdown. Hundreds of thousands of people are being materially hurt by it.  Federal employees are losing homes and dreams and their life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Fox Business’ Stuart Varney, poster child for the ugliness of Teahadi capitalism, said of federal workers being made whole:

“No, I don’t think they should get their back pay, frankly, I really don’t. I’m sick and tired of a massive, bloated federal bureaucracy living on our backs, and taking money out of us, a lot more money than most of us earn in the private sector, then getting a furlough, and then getting their money back at the end of it. Sorry, I’m not for that. I want to punish these people. Sorry to say that, but that’s what I want to do.”

We take for granted all of those people who make sure that our roads are paved, our trash is picked up, and that our toilets flush. That our taps have clean water running out of them. That we don’t have to bribe a police officer to help us, and in the less mean-spirited towns of America, that the fire department won’t let our house burn to the ground without paying for their services rendered.  In a lot of parts of the world, those are luxuries unimaginable.

A lot of what government does is routine, boring, and absolutely necessary. Things that American businesses and citizens alike use to platform the success, peace and security which we consider “normal.”

So why is it that we seem drawn, like rubber-neckers at a major freeway accident, to listen to the rantings of handfuls of three-cornered hat wearing crazies screaming and yelling, amplified by an Australian billionaire opportunist, a blowhard Floridian radio personality, and a few shovelfuls of assorted other nuts and whack jobs ranting endlessly into the airwaves bouncing off the ionosphere seem to have been able to poison the public perception of government as this malignant force of evil?

We can laugh off the Pythons crazy counterrevolutionaries.  Why can’t we laugh off the equally ridiculous Teahadis?

It’s time to get the word out:

The Government is US, and government is GOOD.

My shiny two.

About Brian Ross

Brian Ross is a writer, screenwriter, political satirist, documentarian, filmmaker and chef. Ad hoc, ad loc, quid pro quo... so little time. So much to know!

5 comments on “Government is Good

  1. Rita D. Lipshutz
    October 16, 2013

    great piece!

  2. Pingback: Viva la Revolución! Why Bernie Sanders' Revolution Is Already Dead. - LiberalVoiceLiberalVoice — Your source for everything about liberals and progressives! — News and tweets about everything liberals and progressives

  3. Pingback: Viva la Revolución! Why Bernie Sanders’ Revolution Is Already Dead. | Vus Times

  4. Pingback: Trump’s Sixth Sense Moment With The Seventh Estate – Log Him

  5. Pingback: Trump’s Sixth-Sense Moment with the Seventh Estate | truth-2-Power

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