Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Kind of America We Want Doesn't Come Cheaply

By: Dale Bowling

Fiscal Cliff followed by Debt Ceiling followed by Sequestration and now most likely followed by Debt Ceiling again.

For months this is all we're going to hear about from Congress because each of these mini-crises provide Republicans with opportunities to strike at Big Government, which in case you were still interested is their only reason for existing anymore. 

Democrats then will continue to juggle America's long term fiscal health with the good of the Nation as a whole. And they'll do so single-handedly.  Again.

This spectacle is too familiar and excruciatingly pointless. It's like watching Gilligan and the Skipper and wondering if they'll get off the island this time.

But beneath all the GOP's white noise (no pun intended) the question of why we have Government in the first place deserves some thought.

Because in essence when people start talking about taking down Big Government what they're really talking about is weakening or abandoning things that Americans dearly love and have paid for years to receive. Like Social Security. Like Medicare. And like help for America's most unfortunate- Medicaid and Welfare, because I think most of us realize that besides being the decent thing to do, it's in our own best interest. That could be us needing help in the time it takes to hand out a pink slip.

This is not the vision of those who are using the Budget Deficit (ironically a debt created by their own wars and tax cuts) to call for the demolition of Big Government. Ultimately these slash-and-burn types want a government like what America had in the nineteenth century. Let's call it Small Government.

Small Government's only job was to administer justice (that is, protect life and property) and to provide security from foreign powers (that is, protect life and property). Because it doesn't do much, it didn't cost much. There wasn't an income tax in nineteenth-century America. They didn't need one.

Small Government also didn't stop anybody from doing what they wanted to do. Didn't want to do that sort of thing and couldn't afford to anyway. Small Government stood as a champion of, or at least not a hindrance to individual liberty
Freedom is a good thing, right? The freedom dump whatever you want in the water or air, the freedom to employ or not employ whomever you want at whatever salary they're willing to accept. The freedom to rise as far or fall as far as fortune allowed.

Small Government facilitated a Nation of Winner and Losers on a spectacular scale because it didn't and couldn't intervene in the process.

There is a passage in the Gospel that goes something like, what good is it to save your life only to lose it? I think the idea is that to save your neck, but lose your soul is no bargain.

I'm very much reminded of this verse these days. Government exists to serve its citizens. If Republicans succeed in whittling down Big Government so that it can remain solvent but no longer work to improve the lives of Americans, what good is that government anyway?

The majority of Americans realize that the kind of government we want and the kind of America we want don't come cheaply. And we're OK with the costs because a stronger, better, fairer America benefits us all.

Most of us don't want to see the Social Safety Net removed because without a net, the fall can hurt pretty bad.

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