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Like many of you, I was lucky enough to spend Thanksgiving with my family. Big breakfast, bigger lunch. My son had to leave early so he could go to his night shift job, but hey, I'm thankful he has a job. I'm thankful for all of it—the family, the home, the food, the moments of peace and satisfaction. I realize how many people were missing family, missing homes, missing jobs, missing the chance to enjoy the day.

While I was being thankful, I gave my thanks for what made a good day possible. I gave thanks for government.

Thanks for the highways and railroads that brought my family swiftly and safely together. The need for an system of federal roads to connect the nation was so clear that the first major effort was commissioned by George Washington and the legislation signed by Thomas Jefferson in 1806.  The value of the railroads so obvious that the acts to put lines across the nation were signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1862 and 1864 while the Civil War was underway.

Thanks for the safety of the food we ate. I'd like to say that everything we had was organic and locally owned, but I'm thankful that when a Midwesterner resorts to canned cranberries, he can do so with the assurance that the contents of the can will be cranberries, and not sawdust or simply garbage. For that I can think the Pure Food and Drug Act that Theodore Roosevelt signed in 1906. Roosevelt was a skeptic who didn't believe the horror stories that Upton Sinclair wrote in The Jungle. So he sent his own team out to investigate. Within weeks the legislation was passed. Thirty years later, another Roosevelt signed the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, strengthening the ability of the new FDA to make sure our food was safe and labeled correctly.

Thanks for the safety of the water we drank. Yes, there might be problems with that water we don't yet recognize, but I can drink it with some assurance that it won't hold raw sewage thanks to the Rivers and Harbors Act that William McKinley signed in 1899, and that it won't be laced with toxic chemicals thanks to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act that Harry Truman signed in 1948, and the Clean Water Act which a Democratic House and Senate passed in 1972 over the veto of Richard Nixon.  

Thanks for the safety of the air we breathed. On Thanksgiving week in 1939, the area where I live was shrouded in a smog so thick that day and night were the same. Street lights glowed in the gloom of noon, and people passed out just walking along their sidewalks. This week we looked out on beautiful blue skies and the only smell in the air was the last autumnal hint of fallen leaves. For that I thank the Clean Air Act signed by John Kennedy in 1963 and the expansions of that law that came later, including the one Nixon had the sense to sign in 1970. I thank that same legislation for the beautiful woodlands out my window, woods that could easily have have died from pollution, acid rain, and disease were it not for the legislation that protects them.

Thanks for the teachers that went all out to see that we got good educations at public grade school, high school, and college. While I'm at it, some thanks for the fantastic national benefits of an educated populace, and to the incalculable rewards in dollars, health, and standard of living that have come from an extensive system of public research universities.

I give thanks for the system that saw so many travelers safely through the air this week. I know that you guys don't like looking in our shoes any more than we like taking them off.

I certainly give thanks for those in the military who are, let's hope, spending their last Thanksgiving away from their families. My brother-in-law who is actually older than me (such people exist) was still required to spend this holiday in Iraq; everyone in the family will give special thanks when that's no longer true. 

Thanks for Social Security and for how it has transformed this nation from the place where the majority of the elderly lived in poverty.

Mostly I give thanks the words that Lincoln said: government of the people, by the people, for the people.  

There are those who see government as the problem. As the enemy. They want to reduce government's role. There are candidates for president running on the idea of destroying the government as a tool to protect health, safety, and envionment; campaigning in the name repealing some of those same laws i just listed and eliminating the agencies that enforce them. The thing is, none of those laws exist because someone thought it would be a peachy idea. They exist because there was a need. Government is not a power grab by some outside force, it is the body of the people, acting in the people's own self interest.

I suppose it would be possible to live in a country were every road was a private road. Where only the children of the fortunate were educated. Where the elderly were on thir own. A country where the only law protecting your family's food was caveat emptor and clean air was available to those who could buy it in bottles. A place where safety was measured in the caliber of your weapon, and peace in the height of your walls. It might be possible, but it would be ugly. It wouldn't be America.

Our government exists for many purposes. These purposes include protecting the resources we hold in common, regulating the activity of business, protecting our health and welfare, and seeing that the people are given the information they need to make informed choices.

Says who? Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, McKinley, Roosevelt, Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy... and that's just scratching the surface. America is only as good as its government, and that government deserves people who want to make it better, not worse.  

I'll be thankful if eleven months from now we elect a few.

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Comment Preferences

  •  And thank you to the public school system ... (39+ / 0-)

    without which most of us would not be able to read this lovely post.  :)  Oh, h/t to kos for establishing this venue for this terrific community to come together on.

    Plutocracy (noun) Greek ploutokratia, from ploutos wealth; 1) government by the wealthy; 2) 21st c. U.S.A.; 3) 22nd c. The World

    by bkamr on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 06:04:09 AM PST

  •  Be thankful for GOOD government, and (23+ / 0-)

    pray that we are able to bring it back.

    “when Democrats don’t vote, Democrats don’t win.” Alan Grayson

    by ahumbleopinion on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 06:20:00 AM PST

  •  Thanks for the reminder (23+ / 0-)

    beautifully written, too.

    I would add thanks for the government protecting my right to speak, worship and publish as I please, and my right to control over my own body. Insofar as it still protects those rights.

    "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."........ "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." (yeah, same guy.)

    by sidnora on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 06:22:17 AM PST

  •  a beautiful piece; thank you! (23+ / 0-)

    When you describe your place in 1939, you could be talking about my mother's Pittsburgh: smog all day, coal dust, the pungent slaughterhouses, all mixed together. She said she never really saw the sun until she came to Washington to work in the War Department in 1941, and in later years, when I came to know and love Pittsburgh, she couldn't believe that I swam in the river. That's progress! I'm grateful for the prescience of past presidents, too.
    And I'm glad your Thanksgiving was joyful!

    Life is a shipwreck. But we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats. — Voltaire

    by agrenadier on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 06:25:19 AM PST

    •  I was thinking the same thing (11+ / 0-)

      as you were.  My parents related the stories to us about how you couldn't see ahead while walking "dahn tahn".   The buildings were black even in the early sixties when I was small.  Pittsburgh's return to a beautiful and clean city was a marvelous accomplishment, one I am sure the Mellons and buddies would not have achieved.  However, they sure made lots of money from that singular endeavor, the greening and cleaning of Pittsburgh.   I have become very depressed about our future and the fight to disable the right in our country.  They are destroying it for sure.

      And she's good at appearing sane, I just want you to know. Winwood/Capaldi

      by tobendaro on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 06:43:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  In the 1950s, in Los Angeles (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mmacdDE, thomask, Bernie68

      A friend of mine had asthma so bad he never learned to ride a bike or throw a ball.  Literally.

      Then his parents were divorced and his mother took him with her back to her home:  Mississippi.  And suddenly, he didn't have asthma anymore.  Ever.

      "There isn't a way things should be. There's just what happens, and what we do." — Terry Pratchett (A Hat Full of Sky)

      by stormicats on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 07:44:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Most people assume London has horrible fog (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mark Sumner, MrJersey, Bernie68

      and that it's a common occurrence, because of the stories of Dickens and the other Victorian writers.

      It doesn't. That wasn't fog - it was smog, from all the coal and wood fires, same as the smog in Pittsburgh and the other industrial towns.  

  •  I'm thankful for our public library... (27+ / 0-)

    and the snowplow driver at 5 a.m. in the morning. Cheers to public service workers...and my mail carrier.

    I love nature, science and my dogs.

    by Polly Syllabic on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 06:26:48 AM PST

  •  Someday I hope to be thankful for a government (15+ / 0-)

    that works for the 99%.  Till then, I am thankful for all of those people, in and out of government, who are fighting for this ideal.  

    The more you can increase fear of drugs and crime, welfare mothers, immigrants and aliens, the more you control all the people. Noam Chomsky

    by willkath on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 06:27:41 AM PST

  •  Amen, we need to return to the basic premise (15+ / 0-)

    that the government is of the people, by the people, and for the people. We do not need a government that is of the corporations, by the lobbyists, and for the 1%.

  •  Excellent post (8+ / 0-)

    there are many things that the government of the people does and is supposed to do FOR the people, not just protecting the rich from paying their fair share, like everyone else.

  •  My daughter and I have been talking about (24+ / 0-)

    starting a blog with a "Thanks Taxes" theme.  Folks around the country, or even the world, would be encouraged to post photos and videos of themselves holding a sign with some variant of "Thanks Taxes!" on it wherever taxes have been used for the public good.

    Beta testers wanted: get a free copy of ORGANIZE!

    by AnotherMassachusettsLiberal on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 06:32:56 AM PST

  •  national park service, wpa & national zoo (26+ / 0-)

    spent part of my weekend with kids and grandkids visiting the manassas battleground in virginia, the washington dc zoo and peirce mill which was restored by the wpa and now run by the national park service in rock creek park. my grandson earned two more junior ranger badges--another great government program for kids...hooray for government!

    "DC...the chocolate city with the marshmallow center and graham cracker crust of corruption" - Stephen Colbert

    by foxsmartchicago on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 06:33:31 AM PST

    •  I still do not understand (27+ / 0-)

      Why the first reaction to unemployment was not to start a program like WPA or the CCC. So many beautiful structures remain from those programs in the 1930s. A new generation of such programs would both benefit workers and give a legacy for the new century.

      •  Obama's "infrastructure" proposal (19+ / 0-)

        I agree 110%, Mark.  Spending isn't fashionable today...unless it's to bail out those that end up taking taxpayer money for self-serving profit.

        If ANY program needed (needs) to be done in America, it's the one the Obama administration presented to rebuild our nation's failing infrastructure.  This wouldn't just create "government jobs".  It would spark an enormous number of private businesses and would have payback in just so many ways.  Businesses look at spending based on what is called "ROI" (Return On Investment).  

        Spending to rebuild our infrastructure would have a HUGE ROI.  I just don't understand why there are so many against it.  And, in some ways, even notable democratic leaders have dragged their feet on this one.  

        - If you don't like gay marriage, blame straight people. They're the ones who keep having gay babies.

        by r2did2 on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 06:45:31 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  How about a Prosecution of Bankers (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          tb mare, Bernie68

          The transformation of our nation's  and state's prison system into a for-profit prison system should be the subject of investigation.  Why have our prisons' populations exploded with the costs going to for-profit corporations supporting Republican politicians?

          Why was the answer to morgage losses, pouring more money into the banks that created the derivatives that inflated the mortgage system that has made home-buying too expensive for middle-class Americans?

          Why is the answer to unemployment, more tax cuts for "job creators" who simply pocket more weatlth without creating any jobs?

          Why do Tea Party followers close their minds and eyes to common sense?

          Why would any middle class American vote against their own economic interest?

          The answers to most of these questions would begin with a prosecution of the bankers that created this economic destruction.

          Impeach Grover Norquist! Defeat a Republican!

          by NM Ray on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 09:46:58 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Because (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            NM Ray

            under the Republicans, the purpose of government for the last twenty or thirty years (if not more) has been a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class to the already wealthy.

            That is what bothers me about the pronouncements coming from the Occupy spokespeople.  Our problem is not capitalism.  It is the socialism of the right, with government stepping into the economy to make those transfers, to reward the failures of the corporations, and to punish the middle class for playing by the rules.

            When Reagan said it, he was of course, lying, but today it is the truth.  There are today "welfare queens" who take government handouts, and use them to buy Cadillacs and Mecedes Benz's.  They are called investment bankers.

            We don't want to end capitalism.  We want to return to it.

            The greatest threat to capitalism isn't government.  It is corporate greed.  We need government to return to the role it once had of guarding and protecting capitalism from the big corporations.

            And there is only one politician who is expressing this truth today.

            "... there is no humane way to rule people against their will." Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine

            by Noziglia on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 11:06:38 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  Absolutely! (10+ / 0-)

        Even at my age, I would have signed up to do work here in the National Forests of Western North Carolina.  The WPA and CCC made many great contributions to our nation.  We had the opportunity to do that again; and we didn't.

      •  Benefit workers? That's an oxymoron in (6+ / 0-)

        Republican-speak.

        That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

        by concernedamerican on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 07:27:04 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Amen! (6+ / 0-)

        The treasures of those programs are all around us.  If you keep the your eyes open, the length and breadth of the investment will boggle the mind.  

        The week before last, my wife an I visited a long-disbanded mid-19th century religious communal settlement here in Illinois called Bishop Hill.  The surviving, then-deteriorated buildings were cataloged in the 1930's as part of a WPA project and complete blueprints created that were used decades later in restoring the historic buildings   They also recorded the recollections of the few surviving members of the community and collected stores passed down to the children of the original settlers, and preserved the history of the community.  The New Deal project also created drawings of furniture, tools, and other goods manufactured by the colony to support itself.  I have no doubt whatsoever that 90% of what we saw would have been lost without that WPA project.

        It was a lot, lot more than just brick and mortar.

        We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Justice Louis D. Brandeis

        by dsteffen on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 07:27:53 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  The Smithsonian Institution and .. (20+ / 0-)

      the National Gallery (the latter heavily endowed by rich people who, for whatever faults they had, actually thought that the public had a right to directly see great art!)

      Civilization rests on the arts and sciences and I am not yet ready to give up civilization, despite its faults.  The alternative is barbarism.

  •  I attended a public high school that was built (12+ / 0-)

    by the WPA. It is still one of the best public high schools in the country.

  •  Under the rule of the Tea Party we would ... (17+ / 0-)

    still have a government, only it would be much more authoritarian!  Nobody in the group ever read "Animal Farm" apparently, or else thought it a manual for governing.  Movements like the Tea Party, who really do have a leadership, are at their core (not necessarily in the rank and file) a way to take over the reins of government for the leaders' own benefit.  OWS is more amorphous and is at present unlikely to be as useful to demagogs and self-aggrandizers.  It is a cry for help from the people.  Yes, it (like all movements) has a fringe of people of questionable motives, but better a lunatic fringe than a rotten core!  

    Good (not necessarily perfect - I doubt that such is possible) government is a boon to mankind and to our country.  Get rid of that and you are at the mercy of the worst elements of the rich and powerful, or the wannabes who are willing to do their dirty work. Let us hope that our republic survives this mess and reemerges as a center of democracy again.

  •  Born in America (5+ / 0-)

    I'm sure some here would argue with this, but I'm thankful to have been born in America.  Regardless our shortfalls, few countries, if any, are as great.  

    - If you don't like gay marriage, blame straight people. They're the ones who keep having gay babies.

    by r2did2 on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 06:39:41 AM PST

  •  I'm not thankful for government (9+ / 0-)

    in the abstract.  Government "of the people, by the people, for the people" is good, government for the 1% is not.  

    There are those who see government as the problem. As the enemy. They want to reduce government's role.

    Those same people want bigger government to make more war, spy on more activists, lock up more people.  They don't think government is the problem. They think government for all is the problem.

    And I do want to reduce the role of government - in some areas.  I want women to have greater access to abortion, banks to have less access to free cash, police to have less pepper spray, armored vehicles and sound weapons, the national security state to have less power to spy on us, government to stop locking people up for using marijuana, and much more.

    Not more or less, but to what ends.

    Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

    by David Kaib on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 06:40:05 AM PST

    •  I agree (4+ / 0-)

      The military industrial complex uses big government to meet their ends.  

      Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity. Horace Mann (and btw, the bike in kayakbiker is a bicycle)

      by Kayakbiker on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 06:44:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  And another MIC (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Wendy Slammo, Kayakbiker, US Blues

        the Medical Industrial Complex

        Sunlight is the best disinfectant

        by historys mysteries on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 07:09:24 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  dww44 (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Kayakbiker, thomask

        In the Nov. 22 edition of my local paper, there was a photo of our 2010 newly minted Tea Party Congressperson (he ousted a decent, honest, intelligent,  but altogether true blue dog 4 term Dem), with the following headline:

                "Scott plans to fight Automatic Defense cuts"

        While understandable that he would support an effort to keep intact the nearby Air Force Base, which happens to be the single largest employer in the state, he was also co-sponsor of a balanced budget amendment and continues to believe that the Federal government should be managed like a family budget.

         My part of the country, thanks to a goodly number of long ago Dixiecrats, plenty of available land, and a climate that allowed for year round military training, is wholly dependent on the MI complex.  It will be a long hard battle to get this country on a different track and it is a fight we should all engage in at our local levels by electing more Democrats.  Better might be good, too, but more should be our immediate goal.  I'm thankful that more of them in my state is even a possibility.

  •  I love government when it works (4+ / 0-)

    but the drone policy and the deportation of naturalized US citizens is scary.  

    Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity. Horace Mann (and btw, the bike in kayakbiker is a bicycle)

    by Kayakbiker on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 06:41:52 AM PST

  •  I'm thankful for government... (0+ / 0-)

    ...and private enterprise.

    A quant and damned proud of it.

    by Cera on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 06:43:33 AM PST

    •  Depressing (0+ / 0-)

      When was the last time they worked together for the good of the country's future and the citizens?   ALL of the citizens.

      And she's good at appearing sane, I just want you to know. Winwood/Capaldi

      by tobendaro on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 06:51:56 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Probably right before Thanksgiving... (0+ / 0-)

        A quant and damned proud of it.

        by Cera on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 07:03:51 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  When did anyone? (0+ / 0-)

        That's a pretty high standard.  When did any group all work together for ALL of everybody?

        •  During the forties, (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          snazzzybird, anonymous coward 8

          at least the majority saw the usefulness of the government programs and they changed the country.  Now it seems that the majority wants the country to fail because they just want to win the ideology aguement.  

          And she's good at appearing sane, I just want you to know. Winwood/Capaldi

          by tobendaro on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 07:27:45 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Whether and which government programs (0+ / 0-)

            are useful is an ideological question.

            Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

            by David Kaib on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 07:29:32 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Not quite. (0+ / 0-)

              The programs of FDR have been proven to work.  The current crop of politicians have decided in a rewriting of history, that they did not work and the opposition is too timid or bought to push for the fixes.   Ideology may enter into the  equation in that our current dilemma is not exactly the same as the Great Depression.  That is where economists could assist in analyzing the problems.  Thay have all been bought so it seems too.   Ideology is not what we should be deciding our future on since it is fluid and bought and sold to the highest bidder.

              And she's good at appearing sane, I just want you to know. Winwood/Capaldi

              by tobendaro on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 07:37:29 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  What does it mean for a program to 'work'? (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                RockyMtnLib, anonymous coward 8

                We're not really having an argument about the best way to create jobs, address the deficit, or provide people with health care.  Our goals are a product of ideology.  If you and I agree on a goal, we can (potentially) have a non-ideological discussion of how to achieve it.  But politics involves disputes over goals, and therefore ideology.

                Even then, ideology will enter into it.  Programs like SS actually increase political participation by recipients. I consider that a good thing., conservatives don't, and neoliberals think its irrelevant.   Other programs (those that serve populations seen as less deserving) decrease political participation.  Indeed, most programs will have an impact beyond their stated goal.  Medicare not only provided health care to seniors, it reduced poverty among the retired and created a constituency to protect the program in the future.   Policy questions cannot be settled by a non-ideological standard of what works.

                That said, one can have an ideology that is impervious to the facts.  That is a pretty serious problem, and it is not inevitable nor ever a good thing. (I do agree that money is a big part of the problem, but it's not ideology that's being bought, IMO, it's just positions. People that swing wildly between position lack an ideology).

                Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

                by David Kaib on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 08:01:49 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  To assess a program's (0+ / 0-)

                  success, one would have to look at the results and see if progress was made.  Were people working and gaining a way to make a living?  Did the economy recover and then thrive?  It is tough to make the arguement that the resulting expanding economy and the burgeoning middle class was not a result of FDR's policies.   We do have a portion of the population disingenuously trying to convince us of that very idea.  This after years of acknowledgement of the success of FDR's presidency.  Ideology over provable results.  FDR had his ideology and he implemented what he could according to his ideals.   After gaing the ideas, luckily his implementations worked.  whether his implementations matches his ideals, I don't know.

                  And she's good at appearing sane, I just want you to know. Winwood/Capaldi

                  by tobendaro on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 08:47:02 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

      •  We can fix this (3+ / 0-)

        It used to work before the righties and the capitulator di-partisan fund-raisers got elected. We need to roll back some of the previous protections.

        Government and capitalism must work together. We can't keep creating these unworkable free market equates to freedom idealogies. Unfettered capitalism was a big factor that got the banks into gambling our money into their pockets. We can reinstate Glass-Steigel, for example.

        We don't need to destroy ourselves to fix government. We only need to fix what's broken.

        To do this, we need a Democratic supermajority.

        More and better Democrats.

        Then we can have jobs, a growing GDP, a reduction in deficit as a fraction of GDP (see how that Jr High math worked there?), and universal health care. And we shrink the military and the NIA. End wiretaps. Ban pepper spray and tasers.

        ALEC and Heritage need to be taxed and restricted. We need to expose issue ads. We need to enforce anti-trust laws. Consumer protection needs operational funding.

        So much to do.

        Just stifle your resentments (we're all in this together), plug your nose, and vote against President Orly Taitz.

        "All people are born alike - except Republicans and Democrats" - Groucho Marx

        by GrumpyOldGeek on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 07:14:59 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  That all is right (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RockyMtnLib

          and good but we have been fighting these fights for a long time and I am not seeing any difference in results.  I work, I vote, I contribute and I will continue the slog.  It is just so bleak looking that I become stagnant.  To see the media going along with lies and pointing us in the wrong direction is the cherrry on top of the billowing black cloud of uselessness.  The right wins so much, so many spouting the wrongness and allowing the slide to continue.  It gets to me.

          And she's good at appearing sane, I just want you to know. Winwood/Capaldi

          by tobendaro on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 07:23:24 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  When did balance and compromise becomed bad words? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tobendaro

        Government is and should be a balancing act.

        But nowadays, anyone who even tries to get up on the balance beam is bull rushed and knocked on their ass.

  •  My first "real" job (12+ / 0-)

    was working at the Playland amusement park in Rye, New York. It is the only publicly owned amusement park in the country, and it was built by the WPA. Government built it, government runs it, and it has provided summer jobs for generations of young people. It's a treasure for the area.

    Great post, Mr. Sumner. Now I'm off to work at UPS, where I'm also thankful for the roads that let us operate safely, and the Union contract that gives me health insurance that, at 62, I could never afford otherwise. (no, I don't drive, I sort packages part-time in the hub)

  •  I wonder the same thing about the WPA and the CCC (4+ / 0-)

    So much great art, photography, and public works projects in those years. And would people have any idea what the Dust Bowl and the Depression actually looked like through the eyes of all social classes without being captured on camera by some of the greatest photographers of the 20th century? Nope.
    In September, I toured the VOA in Washington with a group of Afghan broadcasters, and the Ben Shahn murals are still there, having been beautifully restored.

    Life is a shipwreck. But we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats. — Voltaire

    by agrenadier on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 06:44:05 AM PST

  •  A beautifully written piece on government (5+ / 0-)

    Thank you.

  •  Thank you, this needs saying (5+ / 0-)

    often and loudly.

  •  I don't understand (3+ / 0-)

    why the 1% don't see that their welfare is protected and aided by the government, too, and so they should pay for it.

    •  They think civilization is a zero-sum game (3+ / 0-)

      They think civilization is a zero-sum game:  they think that for them to stay on top, others must lose.

      They don't see that a smaller slice of a bigger pie might be better than the biggest slice of a shittier-pie.

      •  They really do (2+ / 0-)

        Why else would we keep hearing "Government cannot create wealth. It can only confiscate and redistribute wealth"?

        They really do believe that no government program or policy can benefit society as a whole. Even national defense - "the purpose of the military is to kill people and break things".

        liberal bias = failure to validate or sufficiently flatter the conservative narrative on any given subject

        by RockyMtnLib on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 08:58:04 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  They see it (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      anonymous coward 8
      the 1% don't see that their welfare is protected and aided by the government, too, and so they should pay for it.
      .

      Trust me, they see it. It's that they want even more, and want to pay even less, so they convince the low info types to "protect the wealthy - you might be rich on day" That's why a $30K bus driver votes to protect the income of a Steve Forbes.

      "Turn off the AM Radio and get invited to your own life." - Jimmy Dore

      by stunvegas on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 10:26:48 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Agree (except for TSA.) (6+ / 0-)

    TSA is a complete waste.  

    The 2 million travellers per day each wasting an additional hour on a useless security tax is a daily reminder of how we panicked and lost post-9/11.

     If every system worked perfectly for TSA, the best possible result they could achieve is to drive their fabled boogeymen to blow up in the crowded area approaching the checkpoint.  That's what happens in places with non-imaginary terrorist threats.

    If our TSA workers applied their risk-mitigation skills to reducing the motor vehicle death rate by only 10%, we could save a 9/11 worth of lives every year.

    In terms of lives saved, we'd be far better off spending the 2,000,000 person-hours per day training gradeschoolers in first aid.     Just this portion of the security tax wastes 1000 person-years worth of productivity every day.       Osama's hijackers spent maybe 20*365*24*40=7,000,000 hours of lifespan on 9/11, and our overreaction costs us that much lifespan in each and every 3.5 days of TSA security theater.

    Sorry for the rant.  Government, like other manifestations of civilization, is very good for us, but our TSA is a monument to lizard-brain stupidity.

    •  We gotta stop electing lizard-brained idjuts, then (3+ / 0-)

      Don't ya think? You know the ones.

      Or do we just train our 3rd-graders for janitorial work? And lose a few tens of thousands of jobs. The Republic Party plan. They think we're takin' their freedoms away. And their guns. So they vote against their own well-being.

      "All people are born alike - except Republicans and Democrats" - Groucho Marx

      by GrumpyOldGeek on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 07:22:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The lizard-brain idjut electees are opportunists (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        GrumpyOldGeek

        ...that capitalize on the lizard-brain fears of a great number of our fellow citizens.

        I don't know that they are entirely idiotic, just that they do bad things, like fund TSA, in order to take advantage of short-term political opportunities.   Long term costs, like this 10 years by 365 days of 2,000,000 wasted hours of productivity to a stupid TSA , will wear down our economy.

        Did you know that the 1% (or 0.1%) can avoid much of the pain of TSA by flying private?

  •  be thankful for government (4+ / 0-)

    As Lawrence O'Donnell says in his MSNBC ad, speaking to the people in government who would destroy government, "government created YOUR job!"

  •  From the Talmud (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    concernedamerican

    Rabbi Chanina, the Deputy High Priest taught: "Pray for the welfare of the government, for if people did not fear it, we would swallow each other alive"

    Pirke Avot 3:2

    "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

    by Navy Vet Terp on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 07:04:47 AM PST

  •  Welfare Before Liberty: That's the Constitution (6+ / 0-)

    Promotion not mere protection of the general welfare is a foundational purpose of our government, as stated in the Preamble, and congress is authorized in Article 1 to tax to pay for it.

    Contrary to two ubiquitous rightwing lies.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 07:08:43 AM PST

  •  What we call the "third world": (3+ / 0-)
    I suppose it would be possible to live in a country were every road was a private road. Where only the children of the fortunate were educated. Where the elderly were on thir own. A country where the only law protecting your family's food was caveat emptor and clean air was available to those who could buy it in bottles. A place where safety was measured in the caliber of your weapon, and peace in the height of your walls. It might be possible, but it would be ugly.

    Yes, but it can be beautiful if you are in the 1%--as long as you have that acquired knack for the blind eye as you pass through the filth.

    Much of the world's population still lives that way and even in more progressive, "second world" countries there are strong flavors of that privilege for a few and hopeless scramble for far too many. Our TP, GOP, right wing is trying damn hard to take us right there. They are trying to destroy the United States to make it theirs.

    The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. [Elbert Hubbard]

    by pelagicray on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 07:13:23 AM PST

  •  Amen, to a great post.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gorette
  •  we haven't built much (3+ / 0-)

    in the last 60 years. The privatize everything right wingers in this country don't seem to care about generational or cultural legacies. The only legacy they care about is the legacy trust they will leave their immediate offspring. They, to put it plainly don't care about any segment of society or its health and well being except that which they can exploit for personal gain. They bailed out on this world, this country and "patriotism" a long time ago.

  •  What a wonderful essay! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    stunvegas

    Every word of it is true, and right, and sensible.  So sensible that it blows my mind every day that we are now having to defend it from attack, and being attacked ourselves for doing so.

    I wish everyone in the country could read this.  I wish the kool-aid drinkers and Faux followers would read it and actually stop and think about it.  Is this seriously the world they want to live in?  I think not.

    I suppose it would be possible to live in a country were every road was a private road. Where only the children of the fortunate were educated. Where the elderly were on thir own. A country where the only law protecting your family's food was caveat emptor and clean air was available to those who could buy it in bottles. A place where safety was measured in the caliber of your weapon, and peace in the height of your walls. It might be possible, but it would be ugly. It wouldn't be America.

    Fox News is to the truth as a flaming bag of dog shit is to a packed lunch. --MinistryOfTruth

    by snazzzybird on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 07:41:25 AM PST

  •  Perfect. Thank you/ (0+ / 0-)

    Further, affiant sayeth not.

    by Gary Norton on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 07:44:16 AM PST

  •  Thank YOU, Mark, for this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    stunvegas

    beautiful piece. I especially like this statement which should be in an ad to hit it home because this Republican conservative attitude toward government is deplorable and very detrimental to the population.

    Government is not a power grab by some outside force, it is the body of the people, acting in the people's own self interest.

    However, our government currently is under the thumb of the 1% due to the roll of money in politics. Until that changes it's hard to see how it will act in our interest again.

    "extreme concentration of income is incompatible with real democracy.... the truth is that the whole nature of our society is at stake." Paul Krugman

    by Gorette on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 07:46:00 AM PST

  •  A BETTER Government (0+ / 0-)
    But, to speak practically as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government. Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step towards obtaining it.

    - Henry David Thoreau, "On The Duty Of Civil Disobedience."

    #OccupyWaldenPond

    "Political ends as sad remains will die." - YES 'And You and I' ; -8.88, -9.54

    by US Blues on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 07:47:25 AM PST

  •  But no thanks whatsoever (0+ / 0-)

    to the government of the state of Alabama, which is shaming itself mightily by supporting the lawsuit by Shelby County before the U.S. Supreme Court that seeks to have parts of the Voting Rights Act declared unconstitutional.

  •  while government's not perfect... (0+ / 0-)

    ...neither is anything else, because government, like everything else, is run by people, who aren't perfect...and, while there are a lot of things in government in desperate need for reform (the corrupt system of what John McCain called "legalized bribery whereby special interests buy politicians is still in place, etc.), thank goodness for the government when it comes to: pooling our country's resources for national security, to protect this country, not only through the defense department, but with law enforcement; guaranteed retirement incomes for virtually all citizens (through Social Security); guaranteed right to a public education for everyone; roads; bridges; regulation of foods and drugs (FDA, brought about by the inability or unwillingness of the private sector to police itself); electricity (which would be virtually impossible without some body overseeing its distribution); plumbing (thank goodness for public sewer systems); water (thank goodness for public water systems); air travel (which would be even more dangerously chaotic than it is now, without the FAA monitoring skies for safety); even television (thanks to the FCC, which regulates airwaves which would be a chaotic mess otherwise);  etc., etc., etc. (there are many, many more examples of how people have demanded using government resources to improve their quality of life, but, you get the idea...)

  •  Jet, Oklahoma (3+ / 0-)

    It's a little town in the northern part of the state, out towards the Panhandle.  They proudly proclaim themselves the Goose Hunting Capitol of Oklahoma.

    Thing is, without that Army Corps of Engineers dam on the Salt Fork of the Arkansas River, it wouldn't be much of a destination for geese.  And those boat-related businesses would have no customers, too.

    But they don't want the government messing with their lives.  (You can say much the same thing about much of the South, with all its TVA dams providing electrical power and watery playgrounds, too.

    Grab all the joy you can. (exmearden 8/10/09)

    by Land of Enchantment on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 08:06:49 AM PST

  •  Big Powerful Government is Good!! (0+ / 0-)

    Big Powerful Government is Good!!

    When it funnels middle class tax dollars to munitions makers and their support. Or whose military protects shipping lanes for oil tankers.

    Or who shift the burden of paying for everything onto the backs of people who work and don't clip coupons or speculate.

    Or has powerful police that crush rallies (but the same police are hateful when they ticket me)

    Or that maintains authority and order over horrific dangers like weed smokers and hopefully, pregnant women.

    Big Powerful Government is Good!!

    When I am protected and my enemies oppressed!

    Signed, Die Partei Republikkkanische

  •  Thank you for this comment (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ezdidit

    I appreciate the historical perspective, especially regarding the history of environmental and food safety legislation.  These needs were felt early in the 20th century and had to be revisited several times to be effective, and of course will need further work in the future as times and industry change.  
    I left San Jose in 1969 to go to college but return often to visit friends.  More than once I've asked them to remember the condition of the sky in those days, which was often brown with lead and other particulates.  When the subject of what has changed since high school comes up, I ask them to look up, where they will see the hills on three sides that form the Santa Clara nka Silicon Valley.  What do you see?  The hills, they say.  No the air is still not perfect, and the suburban environment of that area has challenges, but hard won victories have had their effect and it continues.

  •  WPA Project in Illinois and Upper Michigan (0+ / 0-)

    Last month my daughter, granddaughter and I drove to Starved Rock Park in downstate Illinois.  What struck me when I saw the place was the similarity of the cabins and lodge to Wells Park in Cedar River, Michigan.  The beams, shingles, and lumber were cut from the local forest.  The fireplace and front face were made from the local sandstone quarried in Illinois and the wave-polished rocks from the Green Bay shoreline in Michigan.  It was the same basic plan adapted to local conditions.

    The WPA employed workers until the beginning of WWII.

    Don't look back, something may be gaining on you. - L. "Satchel" Paige

    by arlene on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 08:52:05 AM PST

  •  Our Government may have done good things in (0+ / 0-)

    the past but they sure have screwed up during the last three decades or so.  In fact, our government is corrupt and knows it is, but will do nothing to change the status quo.  We need a new government with some new rules.  If government doesn't change then "we the people" we must change the government by whatever means necessary.

  •  Thank you! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    stunvegas

    Finally a diary grateful for government and pointing out the many flaws of the "government is evil" theory.

    15 years old and a proud progressive and Phillies phan.

    by vidanto on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 09:08:02 AM PST

  •  Thankful for this essay (0+ / 0-)

    Typically, people are rarely grateful for what they have until it's gone.  I desperately hope this era of destructive, petulant politics passes soon.

    "Dogs' lives are too short. Their only fault, really." -- Agnes Sligh Turnball

    by EyeStreetMom on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 09:13:36 AM PST

    •  I hope that the petulance passes soon as well, (0+ / 0-)

      but please note that most of the petulance is coming from one side of the political spectrum.  We could give in to the outrageous demands of the most petulant actors in order to achieve a semblance of comity, but that would not be of benefit to anyone.  

      And it feels like I'm livin'in the wasteland of the free ~ Iris DeMent, 1996

      by MrJersey on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 09:32:42 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  For the first time in my life, I lived in a (0+ / 0-)

    government declared disaster area. Within 2 weeks of the colossal storm that put CT in the dark for a week and a half, huge trucks were coming by our area picking up trees, branches and any tree, limb, etc. that was < 20 ft. long, any (ANY) diameter and down as a result of the storm.

    Those trucks were awesome and 75% of the cost will be borne by Fema. The rest by our town.

    It was truly awesome.

    "Say little; do much." (Pirkei Avot: 1:15)

    by hester on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 09:21:48 AM PST

  •  I remember asking a conservative candidate for (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NM Ray, demgem

    local office what he thought about spending public money for historical preservation.  He said that he liked to visit Gettysburg, but didn't think that any public money should be spent on preserving historical sites or buildings.  When I responded that he was indeed fortunate that Lee and Meade's armies happened to meet and fight the battle of Gettysburg entirely on government owned land in Pennsylvania that was magically transformed into the Gettysburg National Military Park.  The look on his face told me that he no understanding of what I was talking about.  In this guy's world, National Parks just happen without the spending of any government money.  They have no idea that any type of historical preservation demands active intervention by government and government funding.  This guy was not a big thinker.

    And it feels like I'm livin'in the wasteland of the free ~ Iris DeMent, 1996

    by MrJersey on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 09:29:22 AM PST

  •  Take off the rose colored glasses (0+ / 0-)

    The devil is in the details of the other side of the coin.

    Thank you for the Patriot Act, Guantanamo Bay, military tribunals, executive kill orders of people who have never been tried, war upon war without end.  Thank you for government protected monopolies, the Federal Reserve, bailouts of businesses that should fail, experimenting on people without their knowledge, and capital punishment.

  •  Mark - this is one of the best diaries I've ever (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    stunvegas

    read here on DK.  And the comments are wonderful too.  Please send this on to the White House.  I wish our President would use the body of your words in a speech to the nation about the value of good government and how important it is to return to those standards.  He should propose a large stimulus program including a modern WPA to help with both the lack of jobs and the loss of unemployment payments to many who have been off work and lost those benefits.  We could rebuild crumpling inner cities, roads, bridges etc. in a matter of a couple of years.  The money the workers would then make would flow back into our economy and benefit everyone.  Thanks for all the common sense insights into our "ain't perfect but still the best system ever" government.

    Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. – John F. Kennedy,1962

    by moose67 on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 09:50:17 AM PST

  •  Benefits of Government are Self Evident (0+ / 0-)

    The T-blind who refuse to recognize the necessity of government are intellectually and morally inferior.  Period!

  •  Nice essay! (0+ / 0-)

    Thank you for a nice essay!

  •  I'll be passing this along to (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NM Ray

    a hundred of my closest friends. :-)   What a great summation of what's right with government!

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 10:19:36 AM PST

  •  So well said (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NM Ray

    Thanks for writing this.  

    I plan to send it around to others.  

    •  I think that I will send this to a few Republicans (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hilltopper, demgem

      My family and friends who vote and spout out their Tea Party Nonsense.  

      My co-workers, who for a government agency, and continue to vote against their own interests.

      My Representative, who is a actually a living, breathing, thinking Democrat.

      Very nice.  I appreciate your thoughts and comments.

      Impeach Grover Norquist! Defeat a Republican!

      by NM Ray on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 10:43:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Nice (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NM Ray

    Well done Mark.

    "Turn off the AM Radio and get invited to your own life." - Jimmy Dore

    by stunvegas on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 10:36:16 AM PST

  •  Thinking (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NM Ray

    So many of the people who have bought into the Fox meme that all government is bad have also bought into the Fox and Friends meme that thinking about this or anything else is also bad.

    They would, if they thought about it, agree with so much in this excellent post.  But they have been carefully taught not to think about it.

    The real problem is, they are, as we all know, then voting and working and advocating against things that they need and want.  They are acting against their own interests.  As RM has said, in the society they want, even the wealthy would be worse off than they would in a society that takes care of everyone.

    The example I try to break through the thought barriers with is water.  I have lived in places where drinking the water that comes out of your kitchen tap is a life-threatening act.  In order to make water that has not been treated by government agencies so that it is safe for everyone into something they can drink, those who can afford it have to spend way more money than they do to subsidize safe drinking water for everyone.

    It's complicated.  It's reasonable.  It takes some thought.  And if you have been carefully taught not to think, we all end up losing.

    For the chance to get to a place where we're all better off because we're all better off (even the 1%), let us be thankful.  And let us work like mad to get our neighbors to THINK.

    "... there is no humane way to rule people against their will." Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine

    by Noziglia on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 10:56:02 AM PST

  •  My spouse just retired (0+ / 0-)

    after nearly 30 years as a government employee, driving a bus in Silicon Valley traffic to get people to work, school, doctor's appointments or just out for a day of fun. There are many people who cannot drive, either due to cost or disability -- and there are many more people who probably should not drive.

    Now to try to end the wars we ask our gay and straight soldiers to fight. -- Chris Hayes (modified)

    by Cali Scribe on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 01:46:46 PM PST

  •  "The Rich Will Buy It" (0+ / 0-)

    I just spent two hours on a Washington Post comments thread following the article about how the wave of the future is getting rid of public schools and educating children privately at home by computer. Nothing like 12 years of social isolation to prepare kids for the Brave New World. Then I turned on my TV and FOX was praising the privatization of public lands---the segment on privatizing Indian reservations was followed by the one on privatizing city parks. Archibald MacLeish said "There's nothing good in the world but the rich will buy it/ Even a continent, even a new land" and, boy, was he right.

  •  See WP Article on Homeschooling by Computer (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BarackStarObama

    See the Washington Post article on homeschooling by computer. Apparently there is a huge Right-wing agenda to a) get rid of public schools and b) have kids go to school online at home using c) software developed for major profit by Corporate America. By now the Comments thread is up to about 400. Go have fun.

  •  "The value of the railroads so obvious (0+ / 0-)

    that the acts to put lines across the nation were signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1862 and 1864 while the Civil War was underway."

    Which begs the question why no one in Washington seems to see their continued value, or in upgrading and enhancing them to compelement the other modes.  Y'know, an investment in the future, and all...

    Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

    by tom 47 on Mon Nov 28, 2011 at 11:50:01 AM PST

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