Saturday, June 11, 2011


PISSED OFF AT THE GOVERNMENT are we? Angry about government spending? Concerned that life would be okay if the government would just get out of the way?

Well here’s a news flash. A whole bunch of Americans are happy to be Americans, no matter how severely the current cyclical circumstance may affect them. They work hard, they play, and they worship and interact knowing at least two things:
  1. Most Americans know that good times can become bad and the reciprocal is true; and
  2. Most Americans know that they are in the center but acknowledge that they are not “the center.”

TO BE MORE SPECIFIC: We are the government. We elect the officials who are positioned to make the tough calls. We are the ones who need to pay attention to the calls made by those folks and we need to take responsible action at the next election if we want to change course. Paying attention means much more than listening to talking heads who’s step one is to convince the audience that they, the head, is the fountain of all truth. They do this by turning words like liberal, conservative, progressive, and socialize (or socialism) into pejorative terms. Paying attention means reading a newspaper or a newsmagazine knowing that the content therein passes editorial scrutiny for reliability and factualness.

Government spending in most cases is money that goes from the government into the hands of people – citizens like you and me – who may be divided into at least three categories:
  1. Those who work for private industries which perform services for or provide product for the government;
  2. Those who work directly for the government providing necessary services like police and fire protection, education and national security to the rest of us; and
  3. Those who receive support from the government in times of need, like the countless GM factory workers who would be unemployed had the government not offered loans – now about to be fully paid back with interest – to their employer.
The money these folks get is used to pay for goods and services, which, in turn, provides work for others in the country.

When the government “gets out of the way,” bad things can happen. Unregulated bankers make questionable loans that artificially prop up the housing market. When the market collapses, people lose their homes. Not because of what government did, but because of what government didn’t do. Unregulated industries, which extract mineral wealth, can cause both human tragedy and environmental ruin. Look at the coal mining disasters of just the past three years or so. And the results of shoddy oversight of deep water drilling. These headline grabbing events occurred not because of what government did, but because of what government didn’t do.

Folks who believe government is the problem – up to and including Saint Reagan – may be those who lay the groundwork for government to be the problem. By underfunding local, state and federal governments, government works less well, providing adequate fodder to those who say “Look what a bad job they’re doing…” in Oroville, Sacramento or DC. In education, tests designed to measure fairly unimportant stuff show that schools fail to teach fairly unimportant stuff, so logically we should cut money to all those lousy public schools. This lack of resource limits schools’ ability to teach the really important stuff like literature, fine arts, history, humanities – and yes, even math and science. The same thing is happening in parks, aide for infants and the elderly, the court system, roads – the list goes on and on.

We cut the resource for the service and then complain that the service isn’t any good. This is akin to taking bread away from a hungry man and then chastising him for starving. Those who wish to “starve the government” could gain a lot of credibility, in my estimation, if they, themselves went a week without eating.

THE MAJORITY OF AMERICANS “get this.” They understand that government has a role to play in providing security, education, economic stability, and infrastructure. The boisterous few have found the means to thwart the will of the majority and short circuit the common good. We see “no new taxes” pledges at the exact time when tax infused stimulus could – and actually has – help pull us out of the dive.

How do we right the ship? The first thing is to know that while I can’t change you, I can continue to change myself for the better. How?

  1. I can turn down the media volume.
  2. I can educate myself more fully in a general sense, and on the important issues specifically.
  3. I can garner information from reliable sources – those passing editorial scrutiny.
  4. I can question the motives of those reliable sources.
  5. I can listen to my neighbor at least twice as much as I talk to my neighbor.
  6. I can admit that I am not the smartest person on the planet, or even in the room.
  7. I can criticize my government without tearing down my government.
  8. I can vote.
  9. I can proudly display my flag, but if I don’t…
  10. …I can still be a patriot.

Living in America is a burdensome thing. But with the burdens of citizenship come great rewards. We must continue to pay our share and work together to fashion and refine our great nation. Not act like ignorant buffoons and tear the place apart.

© 2011
Church of the Open Road Press

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