The Role of Government

I have in my bio how I think that government serves a purpose. It often functions very poorly and it’s not always the Republicans who cause it. Democrats have certainly been responsible for it’s malfunctioning over the years. They had control of both houses for over 40 years and had plenty of opportunity to screw things up. But, simply because our government doesn’t always function properly doesn’t mean that we should do away with it or have the knee-jerk reaction to cut it, make it smaller as if somehow that will make it operate more effectively. President Reagan was the one who really started the brainwashing of the right to simply repeat the talking point like robots, “government is bad, musssst stoppp big government”, oh, but don’t take away my social security or medicare.  And of course Reagan went on to expand the government and quadruple the national debt in 8 years. But, the brainwashing helped to mask all that and it continues to this day.

Steve Benen at Washington Monthly had a great post about President Obama’s address at the University of Michigan’s Commencement on this very topic. This is from that…(emphasis mine)

And periodically — in his first State of the Union, at various public events — Obama will, with varying degrees of subtlety, remind the electorate that the government can be a productive, constructive role in advancing the country and empowering its people. The president’s audience in Ann Arbor heard some extended thoughts on this very subject.

“…American democracy has thrived because we have recognized the need for a government that, while limited, can still help us adapt to a changing world…. The democracy designed by Jefferson and the other founders was never intended to solve every problem with a new law or a new program. Having thrown off the tyranny of the British Empire, the first Americans were understandably skeptical of government. Ever since, we have held fast to the belief that government doesn’t have all the answers, and we have cherished and fiercely defended our individual freedom. That is a strand of our nation’s DNA.

“But the other strand is the belief that there are some things we can only do together, as one nation — and that our government must keep pace with the times. When America expanded from a few colonies to an entire continent, and we needed a way to reach the Pacific, our government helped build the railroads. When we transitioned from an economy based on farms to one based in factories, and workers needed new skills and training, our nation set up a system of public high schools. When the markets crashed during the Depression and people lost their life savings, our government put in place a set of rules and safeguards to make sure that such a crisis never happened again. And because our markets and financial system have evolved since then, we’re now putting in place new rules and safeguards to protect the American people.

“This notion hasn’t always been partisan. It was the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, who said that the role of government is to do for the people what they cannot do better for themselves. He would go on to begin that first intercontinental railroad and set up the first land-grant colleges. It was another Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, who said that ‘the object of government is the welfare of the people.’ He is remembered for using the power of government to break up monopolies, and establishing our National Park system. Democrat Lyndon Johnson announced the Great Society during a commencement here at Michigan, but it was the Republican president before him, Dwight Eisenhower, who launched the massive government undertaking known as the Interstate Highway System.”

When you look at our history as a nation and think about the role that government has had as our society has evolved, I don’t understand how so many on the right can just reject outright, the role of government in everything. And the motivation in recent years has been monetary, Republicans want to privatize Social Security. The Wall Street folks have such a great track record, let’s give America’s life savings over to them. Great fucking idea! Why didn’t we think of that before? I hope the Republicans pick that mantle back up and run with it because it will be a good wake up call for many in the country who were brainwashed, maybe they can be de-programmed with a public debate on the role of government vs. the greedy private sector. And the private sector is all about greed. There are some exceptions for sure, but the bottom line is the master of all in the private sector. Here is more from Steve Benen’s piece which has an extended excerpt from President Obama’s speech at U of M.

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