The Role of Government in this country has been degraded ever since we wanted to get rid of the British from the continent.  Then when we were on our own we debated whether we had too much government or not enough.  A debate that has surfaced and exploded in rhetoric with the advent of the Tea Party in 2010.  A day doesn’t go by on Fox News without a conservative commentator blasting socialism, too much regulations, and the government bureacrats on the “socialist teat.”

When Ronald Reagan in 1980 said: “Government is not the solution to our problem government IS the problem”; he started a hatred of government by low information voters that captured their votes for the Republican Party and against their best interests.  It was a crafty line and something he probably didn’t believe but it was a game changer.  He attacked the $600 toilet and the $400 hammer, as well, they should have been.  But he failed to attack the real culprit the Defense Department and its minions the GOP members of Congress that were bought and paid for in districts with wasteful defense projects.

Trust in government declined and this then discouraged existing government workers and possible future employees; thus becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy of doom.  Perhaps even enabling the hatchet job budget of Paul Ryan in 2012.

We know that in 2011 the Tea Party revived Archie Bunker as their spokesperson:

“Archie Bunker on Democrats”

—not knowing that the sit-com was a parody of a bigot and not a celebration of him.

We know that in 2011 the Tea Party revived President Reagan in the spoof: “Reagan Tells Obama To Shut Up!”

The Tea Party has been completely ignorant of history and of government operations.  They read the Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and think that all governance is based on a literal interpretation of these.  They get States Rights and Gun Rights on the brain and figure there is no need for a federal government so why pay for it?

What these anti-government types don’t understand and will never admit is that: everyone benefits from our common wealth— the commons.  What are the commons?  Certainly we all know the Interstate Highway system.  But how about the federal air traffic controllers and airstrips around the country?  Then those Port Authorities that our cruise ship docks at.  Dams and most water supplies are handled by government.  Electrical power is extended to all areas of the country, even those that private companies couldn’t make money at (the Rural Electrification Act).

Government does a good job at most all it does and that is why you never think of it as being successful.  Out of sight is out of mind.  All our publicly traded stocks and their values are regulated by the government.  If they weren’t would you really invest in a private company that determined it’s own worth and value? When a company go public, their value rises dramatically. The extra value derives from the now larger market of investors who can trust a public company’s financial statements (filed with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission).   When you buy or sell a share of stocks with the click of a mouse this is an action not regulated by the company but by society.

The entire business climate is made safe and secure by government (privileges like incorporation, limited liability, perpetual life, and constitutional protections), and which we grant to corporations for free (other countries charge fees like a protection racket of the mafia).

There are other revenue sources granted by society and under the protection and regulation of government (we give free airwaves to media companies, copyright protection to entertainment and software companies). These free gifts are worth the big bucks.  Banks are another recipient of commons and the protection and regulation of government.  We let the Federal reserve create money out of nothing and give it to banks.  We let them keep only $1 out of every $42 in the bank.  Before Bush it was $1 out of every $24.

There are minimum wages and contract preferences for government work to unions that many complain about (until their job or transportation safety is affected by say Chinese steel for the San Francisco bridges).  The USDA inspects food even for dogs, but the Walmart pet food from China was exempt from their regulations and inspection.  The dogs that died were doomed.  Putting poison in pet food is a great way to get rid of a poison problem in China, where government officials are few but many on the take.

Medicines, health care are also subject to the protection and regulation of government.  I suppose the Obamacare protestors want that to stop also.  More deaths anyone?


Kevin Horrigan: Who needs government?

Civilized society • Except for exploding hog barns and trash pickup, of course.

Posted: Sunday, April 8, 2012 12:00 am St. Louis Dispatch


Government Is

A web project of Douglas J. Amy, Professor of Politics at Mount Holyoke College

Introduction: Why We Need to Stand Up for Government

We need to better understand the indispensable roles that government plays in our society, and we need to come to the defense of this unfairly maligned institution.

Government is Good?

But what exactly does it mean to say that government is good? It means that, on balance, government programs have a very positive impact on the lives of all Americans – that government has been a powerful force for good in our society.

It is not an exaggeration to say that a good portion of the improvement in the quality of Americans’ lives during the last 100 years has been due to the efforts of our federal, state, and local governments. Consider, for instance, the wide variety of vital roles and functions that big government plays in our society. Things like providing roads and sewers and other essential infrastructure facilities, preventing economic depressions, eliminating horrible diseases like polio and smallpox, ensuring drinkable water and breathable air, dispensing justice, providing retirement security, preventing business abuses, sponsoring stunning scientific breakthroughs, feeding the hungry, recalling unsafe products, educating our children, reducing workplace injuries and deaths, responding to disasters and emergencies, preventing crime, protecting civil liberties, rescuing endangered species, ensuring the safety of drugs, guarding our national security, caring for the elderly, and so on.

Seen this way, it is clear that the supportive role that government plays in all our lives is indispensable. We are usually told that the high quality of life enjoyed by so many people in the United States is due to the abundance created in the private sector, but in fact it is also due to the many activities of the public sector. The good life as we know it in the United States literally could not exist without the constant assistance and protection we all get from an extensive network of government laws and programs. Efforts by anti-government politicians to drastically cut taxes and reduce government programs have put this good life in jeopardy.


A Day in Your Life

Douglas J. Amy, Professor of Politics at Mount Holyoke College

Ask yourself this question: “What has government done for me lately?” If you are like most Americans, you will probably answer: “Not much.”  Many people feel like they pay a lot in taxes but don’t really get anything back from government.  Surveys show that 52% of Americans believe that “government programs have not really helped me and my family.”   But let’s see if that is true, let’s examine a typical day in the life of an average middle-class American and try to identify some of the ways that government improves that person’s life.

6:30 a.m. You are awakened by your clock radio and listen to the news before getting up. But you can listen to your favorite station only because the Federal Communications Commission brings organization and coherence to our vast telecommunications system. It ensures, for example, that radio stations do not overlap and that stations signals are not interfered with by the numerous other devices – cell phones, satellite television, wireless computers, etc. – whose signals crowd our nation’s airwaves.

6:35 a.m. Like 17 million other Americans, you have asthma. But as you get out of bed you notice that you are breathing freely this morning. This is thanks in part to government clean air laws that reduce the air pollution that would otherwise greatly worsen your condition.

6:38 a.m. You go into the kitchen for breakfast. You pour some water into your coffeemaker. You simply take for granted that this water is safe to drink. But in fact you count on your city water department to constantly monitor the quality of your water and to immediately take measures to correct any problems.

6:39 a.m. You flip the switch on the coffee maker. There is no short in the outlet or in the electrical line and there is no resulting fire in your house. Why? Because when your house was being built, the electrical system had to be inspected to make sure it was properly installed – a service provided by your local government. And it was installed by an electrician who was licensed by your state government to ensure his competence and your safety.

6:45 a.m. You sit down to breakfast with your family. You are having eggs – a food that brings with it the possibility of salmonella poisoning, a serious food-borne illness affecting tens of thousands of Americans every year. But the chance of you getting sick from these eggs has now been greatly reduced by a recently passed series of strict federal rules that apply to egg producers.

7:00 a.m. You go into your newly renovated bathroom – one of a number of amenities that you enjoy in your house. But the fact that you can even own your own house is something made possible by government. Think about this: “ownership” and “private property” are not things that exist in nature. These are legal constructs: things created by laws that are passed and enforced by government. You couldn’t even buy your home without a system of commercial laws concerning contracts and a government that ensures that sales contracts are enforced. So the fact that you live in your own home is, in part, a benefit of government and the rule of law.

7:01 a.m. Government also helps you own your house in more than the legal sense. On a more practical level, the federal government actually gives you money every year to help pay for your house. It’s called a mortgage interest tax deduction. You can also deduct any real estate taxes you pay.

7:02 a.m. Back in the bathroom. You use the toilet and flush it. Your local government then takes care of transporting this waste, treating it, and disposing of it in an environmentally responsible manner – all without a second thought by you.

7:50 a.m. You and your child walk across the lawn to your car and arrive without getting dog poop on your shoes. A small but welcome achievement that is made possible now by a local law that requires people to clean up after their pets.

5:00 p.m. You leave work—thanks to the government-mandated 40-hour workweek.

5:15 p.m. You stop at a local gas station to fill up. The very fact that this oil company offers this gas to you for sale is dependent on the existence of certain government laws. This company would not do business in your town without a legal system that assures them that you will pay for any gas you pump into your car. This economic exchange – like buying your house – would not be taking place without a system of statutory and common law that protects private property and regulates sales transactions. This simple sale is covered by Article Two of the Uniform Commercial Code – dozens of pages of laws that regulate every transaction for the sale of goods.

5:15 p.m. You pump 15 gallons of 87 octane gas into your car and pay for it. But how do you know that you really got 15 gallons, and not 14½? And that the gas was actually 87 octane? This is only ensured by the presence of that little sticker on the gas pump that shows that a worker from your city’s Division of Weights and Measures has inspected the pump and the gas.

5:30 p.m. As you drive home, you notice the tree-lined streets and the nice houses in your neighborhood – generally a pretty good place to live. Thanks again to government. Without zoning rules, you might have an auto body shop or a fast-food outlet move in next door. Or worse yet, a fertilizer plant or a toxic waste site. But there are no noxious smells in the air, no excessive and dangerous traffic on your street – thanks to your government. Pleasant and livable neighborhoods are only possible with extensive government planning and zoning regulation.

5:35 p.m. As you approach your house, you see your child coming down the sidewalk. The government-provided sidewalk. The sidewalk that allows your child to walk to the neighbor’s house down the street to play with a friend without the risk of being hit by a car.

5:45 p.m. You go for a jog in your local public park.

11:00 p.m. You go to bed. During your sleep, you are protected by a smoke detector that your city requires to be installed in every residence. Maybe you would have bought one of these yourself, but this law helps to ensure that everyone is protected from the dangers of fire.


Government: The Illusion and the Reality

So goes your typical day – if you happen to be paying attention to all the ways that government laws and programs help you lead a better life. For most of us, thinking about our day this way is a real eye-opener. We like to see ourselves as rugged individualists, leading our lives without any help from anyone, especially government. But this is an illusion. As we have just seen, the reality is completely different. We are constantly benefiting from a variety of government laws and programs. Federal, state, and local government employees are literally working around the clock to make our lives better. And the examples described earlier are only a small sample of the many ways that government programs improve our lives. They do not even include many of the most important services of government, such as preventing economic depressions, catching criminals, caring for our fragile ecosystem, dispensing justice, thwarting terrorist attacks, and eradicating deadly diseases. A detailed description of all the various ways that our lives are improved by the activities of local, state, and federal governments could easily take up hundreds of pages.

Many conservative critics of government like to portray it as a malevolent force whose extensive network of laws and regulations are increasingly invading our lives in harmful ways and interfering. They have it half right: government policies do affect our everyday lives in many ways, but these efforts are usually beneficial. For most of us, most of the time, government is not some faceless bureaucrat who is constantly ordering us around; it is more like a guardian angel: an invisible benevolent being that accompanies us throughout their day, easing us through potential difficulties and protecting us from impending harms.

Why We are in Denial

So why are most people in denial about the beneficial roles that government plays in their lives? There are several answers. First, most Americans have become so used to the benefits of government that they simply take them for granted. Benefits that are provided reliably for long periods of time – such as clean water and a stable currency system – tend to fade into the background and to not be considered benefits at all. They disappear from our consciousness.