I have been thinking about this whole concept of distrusting and downright hating of the government that was politicized by President Ronald Reagan. All government is bad, all private industry is good. Government is too intrusive and should leave us alone. It’s the government versus the people. But when you think about it, we the people are the government. I can vote, circulate a petition and even run for office as an American citizen. It is people like you and me that make up the government.
But a powerful few have convinced us that government is the enemy and is not to be trusted and think that a large country can have a small government. We are told that not helping the poor will create more Steve Jobses (a visionary who had very involved parents and access to a good primary and secondary education, which is not something every American has), thus making every American a job-creating millionaire. No one has stopped to think that we might be in the process of creating a class of people who will have nothing to lose by rising up against those who left them behind. And we probably think that once we are millionaires we will all be able to enjoy the life we all want-maids, nannies, butlers, cooks, masseuses, pool boys – never mind that other millionaires may not be too enthused about cleaning our bathrooms and rubbing our feet.
Job creators have forgotten that they need educated employees to make and market their products. Job creators do not think they should pay taxes even though they take out loans, get their garbage picked up, utilize cops and firefighters when necessary, secure their ideas through U.S. Patent Office, use the roads and bridges to transport their goods and rely on store employees to sell their products. We assume every rich person is a job creator and all job creators are millionaires. We assume their success is independent of the people who help them make their products in mass quantity or of the customers’ demand or ability to purchase the product.
We have allowed people with government jobs with good salaries and benefits, all thanks to the taxpayer, tell us that government does not work or create jobs. The idea that government does not create jobs has invalidated the existence of cops, firefighters, public school teachers, park rangers, DMV workers, sanitation workers, federally funded scientific researchers, military personnel, politicians and all the other positions that government in fact does provide. We cheer government layoffs without realizing that is one more or 1000 more people with less money to save and spend in an already fragile economy. Making sure our food and land, air and water are clean and safe is seen as a hindrance to job and wealth creation without realizing that there are people who make a living protecting us by making products safer so we continue to buy them.
And while government has been demonized, many never question that we kill people who have been convicted of a crime without always being completely sure of their guilt and we continually let the government drag us into endless wars based on speculation and fuzzy reasoning that we can never seem to recall. We all know that war creates jobs; more military personnel (government jobs!), contracts between government and factories and other private companies. And while our soldiers are injured and killed, those who profit the most are using that money to purchase their fifth vacation house or a making large donation to their children’s future alma mater.
At one point, Americans trusted government because they understood a country of our size could not function without the stability, infrastructure and regulation that government provides in a society. But I think what happened was that we were divided into those receiving benefits and those providing for those benefits. We see those receiving food stamps, Medicaid and other “welfare” benefits on the one end while the rest of us are responsible for paying for them.
What we have missed is that we all receive benefits. Even if I never call the police, I know that a call to 911 in an emergency will get a personal response. I am glad I don’t have to take my garbage to the dump and when I am older I will be glad for the government that I will have something to live on and basic healthcare. I like that we have the best military in the world; men and women who have given up their basic freedoms, wear uniforms, follow commands and risk their lives so I can enjoy my basic freedoms – if that is not Socialism I don’t know what is. The food that I eat and the drugs I take are safer because a government official tested them.
The idea that we all may end up in a situation, whether our fault or not, which may require that we need to use those benefits is hard to swallow for many of us. We look at poor people and say “they had to do something to end up in that situation” and therefore are undeserving of aid. We also assume that poor people are not working or are lazy. I have worked multiple jobs and found it hard to make ends meet so I will never assume anything about a poor person. Being lucky enough to have family that cares about me (not something everyone has), I did not need to get what is viewed as the typical aid from the state or federal government. It is similar to our dislike and distrust of government; we are being used, they are corrupt, they should be drug tested, etc. But the poor are people just like us, even if many refuse to see it that way.
I sometimes wonder if people who hate government think that it is run by Martians. I know that government is far from perfect but the fact that there is inefficiency, mistakes and corruption only emphasizes the humanity that makes up the institution. Human beings can be very inefficient, make mistakes and become corrupt. I certainly believe there needs to be reform in our government so that politicians create policies that help all Americans, but the idea that the government is not to be trusted suggests that the values the majority of us hold cannot be trusted and its destruction will be the suicide of our civilization.