Politics and religion. Those are the two subjects we were told we should avoid in talking with others if we want to be socially acceptable. Yet, politics has come to play such a significant part of our lives that it is hard not to talk about it, especially in a presidential election year. Much of the political disputes involves differing views as to the reason for and role of government.
Take the conservatives and in particular Grover Norquist. Norquist, who founded Americans for Tax Reform, has served on the board of directors for the National Rifle Association and the American Conservative Union and is as far right as you can get in the conservative political community. Here’s his idea, and we can assume his follower’s idea, of what government should look like:
"My goal is to cut government in half in twenty five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."
But, would that really make America stronger and a better place to live for anyone other than the super rich? In fact, we have had almost eight years of leadership from an administration who has worked very hard to accomplish exactly that. As Jared Bernstein has noted in his blog:
"For seven long years, we’ve tried entrusting our government to those who discredit it, defund it, and fundamentally disbelieve in its role, except when they seek a lucrative contract or a bailout. We gone down the road-and it is a crumbling road, with potholes and failing bridges — where the solution to every problem is a tax cut, where critical agencies are staffed with cronies at best and opposition lobbyists at worst, where secrecy trumps transparency and cynicism rules, where budget resources are never available for expanding children’s health care, but always there for war."
The Regan de-regulation of the airline industry hasn’t improved our national airline system. Undermining our regulatory agencies by executive appointment of incompetents and lack of funding hasn’t improved our environment, our health or our educational system. What is needed is not the elimination of government, but a balanced government equipped to provide the basic services we expect from government. When it comes to the role and purpose of government, the United States Constitution says it best:
"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
Justice William Douglas once said: "The Constitution is not neutral. It was designed to take government off the backs of people." Yet, we need government to provide collectively what we cannot provide as well or at all individually. Schools, roads, law enforcement and the like are what government is supposed to provide. We need political leadership that will restore the proper role of government. Not eliminate it.