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  • A Disappearing Government? We'd Better Hope Not

    • Posted on Nov 22, 2015
    Here's today's (Sun. 11-22) WCF Courier column on government, specifically, 
    how conservatives keep trying to undermine the very idea of government. 

    One memorable moment during the fourth Republican debate came from Rand Paul, when he asserted that “I want a government so small I can barely see it.” 

     That comment resonated powerfully with the debate audience.   
    In fact, Paul’s comment has long been a conservative mantra, ever since Republican superhero Ronald Reagan asserted in his first inaugural address, “Government is not the solution to a problem—government IS the problem.”  
    Rather strange, coming from the top government leader.  

    Thanks to Reagan, government became a scapegoat for the country’s complaints, and still is.   All current GOP contenders agree, loudly and often—government must basically disappear. The sooner the better.   

     Well, all except military and homeland security, what with recent ISIS attacks. Add police, fire, coast guard, and all the systems that keep them going.  Plenty of government needed there.   More, in fact, given current threats.  

     And we depend on social security, no question.   Leave that alone.  Oh yes, and Medicare, a successful program overall.  Wait, we need the National Weather Service in the Department of Commerce, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for tracking storms and long-term weather trends. 

     We’d better keep FEMA for helping with storm disasters, and the National Institutes of Health, which keeps track of diseases in the wake of storms and epidemics. Of course U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection program, given all the food-borne illnesses plaguing agriculture.  
    And so on—the list of needed government services could fill the rest of this page and more.  We the people need them all, and have been demanding them for decades. All developed countries demand them too, offering similar services and more, including more single-payer health care at vastly less cost.     

     The more we try to make government go away, the more out of step we are with contemporary world powers. 

     Here’s a hard truth:  Thanks to conservative anti-government rhetoric, many Americans and virtually all conservatives hate the idea of “government.”  They hate everything about it, from bureaucrats to politicians to regulations to taxes to “waste and fraud,” which they equate directly with government.   

    Tea Party conservatives, in fact, have almost done what Rand Paul envisions: they’ve made government so small we can hardly see it.  They’ve mostly blocked and stalled.   

     Yet both conservatives and liberals love the services government offers, from medical care to education to infrastructure to military protection.   That hasn’t changed, in spite of conservatives’ virulent anti-government rhetoric. 

     Here’s the bad news:  without a government, we have no country.  Anyone who thinks differently doesn’t pay attention.   

     Another hard truth: taxes—hated, reviled, scorned, despised taxes, are the dues we pay for having a country. The sooner we think “dues” when we hear “taxes,” the better off government will be, meaning the better off we all will be. 

     For a good read about why taxes are actually “dues,” and much more, check out “Government is Good: An Unapologetic Defense of a Vital Institution,” a 2011 book by Douglas Amy. 

     Amy develops and supports the case for government being the institution 
    that does by far the most good for our culture and world.  All complaints about it simply fall apart on examination, as he clearly reveals.       

     Yes, government is flawed.  Yes, it overreaches at times. Yes, it contains waste and corruption.  But so do corporations, which must be regulated or they run amuck.  Witness Volkswagen’s recent fraudulent testing of their diesel engines.  

     So it’s high time to stop acting as though government is the problem. 
    Those who have been demonizing it all these years have created a worse problem. 

     Think government is expensive?  Try going without it—as in Mad Max movies.    
    Or feudal Europe.  Or current Libya.   

     You’d come back screaming for it.   

    Go comment!
    Posted in
    • Politics
    • Conservatives/Liberals
  • Behaving Like Children

    • Posted on Oct 25, 2015
    Here's this morning's (10-25) Courier column.  The GOP, sorry to say, has devolved into a playground fight among adults behaving like children.  The comparisons between grownup leaders in the GOP and pre-teens are obvious and discouraging.   

    Negative childhood memories often revolve around being told that you 
    “are” a bad person in some way.   “You’re a loser!” a father shouts at his mistake-prone son, and the kid slinks off, cut to the quick.   A nerd, a loser, an idiot, a pain—parents and siblings often toss those barbs at their children or brothers and sisters.  

     For no one “is” anything, good or bad, for long.   Yesterday’s loser is today’s winner.  Nerds become captains of industry.  We’re all becoming, not merely being.    

     Better and more accurate to say “Hey, you’re acting like a loser!”  Or  “Stop doing that, or you’ll become a pain!”   That’s a fixable situation.    

     One of the more demeaning labels you can pin on a grownup is “child.”  No adult  wants to be called a child or childish.   

     So I’m not going to hurl that particular insult at Republicans. I would never say some of them are children.  They’re merely behaving like children.  Not all, or even most, but many, and they're running for high office.     
    • Children fantasize about their own power and abilities.  Superheroes are children’s fantasies brought to life as a response to children’s essential powerlessness.  Candidate Trump offers the best example of a child fantasizing about swooping down to impose truth, justice, and the American Way on the world. He seems to have no grasp on how government actually works, and how little influence any one person can exert without serious and widespread cooperation, compromise, and support.   “I’m really rich!” he announces, as if that will change anything.  

    • Children make up stories to explain the world, not understanding how evidence and logic works. Candidate Ben Carson behaves like a master childlike fantasy-spinner. Darwin’s research into evolution was motivated by Satan, he asserts.  The Jews could have saved themselves if they had had guns. (Did he ever read any histories of the holocaust?)   Straight men come out of prison gay.  When someone starts shooting at you, rush them.  

    These amount to childish fantasies, directly contradicted by evidence unless heavily cherry-picked or driven by ideology. When children grow up, they look harder at evidence and draw conclusions that fit reality.

    From what I’m seeing, neither Trump nor Carson seem headed in that direction.

    • Children throw tantrums unless they get their way.  The “Freedom Caucus” in the House of Representative would have shut down the entire U.S. government over funding Planned Parenthood, an organization they despise.  Ted Cruz and his fellow GOP playmates actually did this on 2013 over Obamacare, and caused GOP leaders to openly scorn his half-baked scheme.  

    Children seem incapable of understanding the adult idea that compromise is not only helpful, it’s crucial.  

    • Finally, children often have to repeat their mistakes, over and over, before they actually learn anything.  The House GOP, with no chance of defeating Obamacare, nevertheless endlessly wasted time and resources voting on resolutions—fifty times.  Even when told by their own colleagues it was useless, they covered their ears and shouted Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, and went on their silly way.  

        Still don’t think the GOP behaves childishly?  Contrast the two Republican debates with the Democrats’ Oct. 13 debate.  News after both GOP debates focused on who insulted whom—name calling, insults, innuendo about physical features—the kind of talk that usually occurs on junior high playgrounds. 

    Chris Christie even pleaded with his fellow candidates to “stop this childish back and forth . . .” about whose career was most successful, referring specifically to Trump and Fiorina. “No one cares about your careers,” Christie scolded them, and rightly so.   

    As a Salon commentator wrote succinctly and accurately after the second GOP Debate,  “Adult children who dress up and give speeches as they role-play being President of the United States are competing in a real life Republican competition to be one of the most powerful people on Earth . . .”  

    They are adults, I’m convinced.  But their behavior reveals childishness.   
    Go comment!
    Posted in
    • Politics
    • Conservatives/Liberals
    • Cedar Valley Chronicles
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