Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake
jaylake

[politics] The government is here to help

Ronald Reagan said, "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'" This is virtually the founding tenet of modern movement conservatism. Combine this with anti-tax activist Grover Norquist's oft-stated goal of cutting government in half, "to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub", and you have the picture that many American voters have of the government today.

Somehow, people don't seem to have any idea what the government does to help them.

If you or someone you love...
  • Is on Medicare/Medicaid or in the VA system, the government is helping you.

  • Is on social security, the government is helping you.

  • Attends (or ever attended) public school, the government is helping you.

  • Attends (or ever attended) a state college, the government is helping you.

  • Holds an FDIC-insured bank account, the government is helping you.

  • Has called 911 in an emergency, the government is helping you.

  • Has ridden in an ambulance, the government is helping you.

  • Flies on commercial airlines, the government is helping you.

  • Drives on a public road, the government is helping you.

  • Has survived an auto accident due to seatbelts or airbags, the government is helping you.

  • Has hired an exterminator to safely treat household pests with chemicals, the government is helping you.

  • Has been treated with FDA-approved medicines or procedures, the government is helping you.

  • Has ever sent or received postal mail, the government is helping you.

  • Has ever sent or received email, the government is helping you.

  • Drinks from a safe public water supply, the government is helping you.

  • Breathes clean air, the government is helping you.

  • Visits a National Park, the government is helping you.

  • Goes to a library, the government is helping you.

  • Lives in a home or apartment built to conform to fire safety codes, the government is helping you.


You get the idea. The list is virtually endless. And most of those are items with no inherent revenue stream, not subject to improvement by market forces. The government works for you, every day.

Even if you're a rugged individualist shooting your dinner with your own ammo loads, the gunpowder, copper jackets and lead slugs came to your house via a uniformed federal employee traveling in a publicly-owned vehicle over public roads, sent by manufacturers empowered to do business under the UCC, and regulated for your safety so the powder doesn't explode in your face and the lead doesn't poison you.

Reagan was wrong, dead wrong. (And worse, he knew it — that opportunistic rhetorical flourish has taken on a life of its own over the decades and influenced a generation of voters.) The government helps you every day, in much of what you do, in ways that the unregulated market can't or won't manage on its own.

If you're a conservative, do you really want to take all that away?

Originally published at jlake.com.

Tags: politics
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