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Why big government is a good thing.

The other day, I posted the following status update to my facebook page:

"I spend my days around social workers and the homeless--possibly the two demographics that Republicans hate the most".

I followed up that statement with the following comment:

"In the time I am not with social workers and the homeless, I am with my children. Since they are not fetuses, and attend public school, they are also a demographic Republicans don't care for."

I got a bundle of 'likes' from likeminded people, but also got a handful of e-mails from Republican friends and family who were offended by my hyperbole.

Mostly, they explained how they didn't fit into my stereotype: 'I am pro-choice and a Republican', or 'I like social workers and am a Republican', or 'I volunteer at a food kitchen and am a Republican'. The rest of their arguments all boiled down to variations on the following catchphrase: 'I just don't want government running my life'. One friend ended his statement  with the familiar bumper sticker, 'a government big enough to give you everything is big enough to take everything away'.

First, I apologized to everyone for painting an entire group with so broad of a brush. I have come to accept this part of my character: I am a divider, not a uniter. I like all of the people I offended with my comment, so I regret hurting their feelings. I have been pretty good at keeping the little demon of agitation that possess me in check lately, but sometimes she gets out.

Now, I am writing this, because goddammit, I think my friends and family are wrong. 'Big Government' in and of itself is neutral. You have to ask yourself, 'what is this big government doing?' My friends and family carry a fear of oppressive state regimes around in their mind. They are thinking of Stalin and Chairman Mao. But this need not be the case. 'Big Government' in a working democracy really equals a bigger influence for people not born with the gift of upward mobility, which--we have to admit if we are honest--is an American myth.

We do not get a vote in the activities of 'the 1%'. We don't get to elect the boards, or the C.E.O.'s. We can't vote on the type of healthcare coverage our employers offer us. We don't get to vote on the cost of an education, or any of the freedoms ascribed  us by our founding documents...only through government do we have any say about these things. It's only through government--an assembly of imperfect citizens, accountable to the general public--do the disenfranchised and the minority have a chance to build coalitions that allow their voices to be heard and their rights to be respected.

Government is not perfect, because people are not perfect. But government is the only thing standing between our society and the law of the jungle (survival of the fittest), which, at its bottom, is the foundation principle of the modern Republican party. We are a capitalist nation, and capitalism always devolves into a vast pyramid scheme. A strong, progressive govermnent is the only tool we have to make sure the rights of those not at the top of the pyramid are not completely fleeced away.

We are at a critical point in the history of our nation. We have an oppportunity in this presidential election to acknowledge that 'sometimes history needs a little nudge', and make a move towards a more equitable, fair, and universally prosperous nation, wherein the wider population has a larger say in the way things should be done. Or, we could choose to vote for a lesser voice for ourselves, and vote to further empower the already empowered, and hope that a few scraps might fall off of their bulging plates from time to time, enabling us to feed our families and pay for our doctor's bills.

I vote for 'big government', because government is the only vehicle that keeps the people--my people--in the race.


Originally posted to Spencer Troxell on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 11:11 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (22+ / 0-)

    "Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully." ~ Samuel Johnson

    by Spencer Troxell on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 11:11:40 AM PDT

  •  your post imo (5+ / 0-)

    argues for the benefit of government. It is not clear to me that it is arguing for it to be big.

    •  Agree with Dvette (0+ / 0-)

      I don't think any of us want "BIG" government. We just want government or as Lakoff calls it "The Public".

      If peace is to prevail we all have to become foes of violence.

      by spacejam on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 04:48:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No, and that's exactly why the Far Right loves ... (6+ / 0-)

        ... the phrase "Big Government." Like their other artful code phrases, that's all ye need to know about the subject to vote; let's have no other thinking going on.

        I'm with the diarist. I'd use the phrase and desensitize it with description. Call government what you will, those who use the phrase usually want less of it, except, of course, for the part that they take advantage of ... which many on the Far Right just ignore in order to stay pure. But, "Why, Yes, my folks get Social Security and Medicare" which just happen to be two of government's biggest programs, "but like Mitt Romney paying the lowest possible taxes and then some, if it's there, I'd be a fool not to take advantage of it." Yup!

        Ag subsidies to Big Ag, for example.  Tax breaks that make corporate profits disappear into thin air and exotic paradise-island accounts. And as for that GOP bugaboo, Regulation ... Much as the corporate world likes to excoriate regulation, businesses revel in the protections they get from exposure after their lobbyists have shaped the rules and they have complied. Highway safety regulators created the market for the guy who convinced them to require those noisome backing-up beepers. I once worked for one of the most heavily regulated businesses on the planet, and life wasn't all bad by a long shot.

        Obama and strong Democratic majorities in 2012!

        by TRPChicago on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 05:14:12 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I also like Big Government (4+ / 0-)

    I own it. I'm willing to pay to maintain it.

    The problem I have with Big Government is that too many of the managers we've hired are attempting to divest the assets, divert the cash flow, and dilute the value of my shares.  

    "A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself." - Joseph Pulitzer

    by CFAmick on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 11:48:36 AM PDT

  •  This is a useful site (5+ / 0-)

    I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night, alive as you and me.

    by plankbob on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 11:54:53 AM PDT

  •  If government is by the people for the people, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Killer of Sacred Cows

    doesnt that make criticism of the goverment, criticism of the people?

    I already know the wingnut answer to this, "its because liberals vote!"

    Reach for the sky, Touch the sky, Revive a hope, For Mankind!

    by Greatwyrm on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 02:20:44 PM PDT

  •  Government should only be as big as the (2+ / 0-)

    aspirations of the people, for the people that it represents.
    So...yeah, I'm all for a huge, awesome, totally cool government and for everything that it can do for all of us.
    Anything less would be not
    Peace ;-)>

    "We're right in the middle of a fucking reptile zoo! And somebody's giving booze to these goddamn things!"-Hunter S. Thompson ;-)>

    by rogerdaddy on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 07:57:06 PM PDT

  •  If we want to have a large, complex society, (7+ / 0-)

    we're going to need a large, complex government. The right-wing notion that warring private powers, constantly striving against one another for dominance on a terrain devoid of government is naive to the point of absurdity.

    The GOP can't win on ideas. They can only win by lying, cheating, and stealing. So they do.

    by psnyder on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 08:38:03 PM PDT

  •  Thank you. (0+ / 0-)

    Great diary.

    Please Vote for the Democratic nominee for President in 2012.

    by mungley on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 08:58:08 PM PDT

  •  do not adopt republican framing & phrases (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, spacejam

    it never works.

    just the words 'big government' has negative connotations to these non-thinkers. it has the impression of  unweildy, inefficient largesse. billions of dollars and much time has been spent  drumming this impression into the minds of the american populace.  

    consequently, most people won't care for your justification  no matter how reasonable and bullet proof your argument is. Just mentioning 'big government' makes people immediately think ' socialism, communism, tyranny, rationing' etc.  and tune out all rationalization and nuance. you are only punching yourself in the face trying to 'take back' their framing & terminology.

    it is perfectly possible to make a case for government rule by 'we the people' without using their terms and framing.

    •  But if you can't duck it, confront it. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      corazonroto, RockyMtnLib

      We need not be squeamish.

      Compare the enormous financial power of the huge financial institutions, for example, to a handful of understaffed, underfunded, overworked government agencies and departments, several of whom are actually trying to help the financial markets and the organizations that function in them.

      Obama and strong Democratic majorities in 2012!

      by TRPChicago on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 05:18:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  We live in a mixed economy. It's not a good idea (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    for the government to become so big that it completely dominates the economy. Some functions (military, welfare etc.) are performed well by the government while others are not.

    •  What "economy" are you think can be dominated... (0+ / 0-)

      ... by government?

      Obama and strong Democratic majorities in 2012!

      by TRPChicago on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 05:20:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  There were (and are) quite a few countries where (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        government owned essentially 100% of the economy. None of them did particularly well.

        •  But what aspects of the American economy ... (0+ / 0-)

          ... are in jeopardy of "the government [becoming] so big that it completely dominates" them?

          You list welfare and the military as exceptions, where the government is suitable. Yet I do wonder who is in charge every time I hear of Congressmen insisting on budgets for ships, planes, armaments and whole bases the Pentagon is on the record as not wanting.

          Your word was "dominating." Given the ways laws and rules get made and challenged and the processes for changing them - including elections - I am very skeptical that a Big Government can dominate. For me, I worry a good deal more about who was dominating what part of government. Two examples come to mind: (1) the NRA and (2) big financial institutions so linked with the nation's economy that they can equate the public interest with their own.

          It's not that I love government. To the contrary, I want it visible and accountable ... where I can watch it work, advocate other approaches where I disagree and join coalitions to bounce the ones I don't agree with.

          Obama and strong Democratic majorities in 2012!

          by TRPChicago on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 12:47:26 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  No, US is not in danger of this. My point is (0+ / 0-)

            that there are limits to the optimal size of the government. Clearly, private army is not a good idea. But so is government-owned Apple.

            Your point about certain interest groups having a lot of power is a good one. But many of these groups (e.g. NRA) reflect the position of the majority of the country. Influence of many others doesn't seem to be related to the size of the government, rather to its degree of openness and corruption.

            I agree with your last paragraph.

  •  The bumper sticker quote: (0+ / 0-)

    "a government big enough to give you everything is big enough to take everything away' was said by Thomas Jefferson.

    For what it's worth, I disagree with Jefferson on this point.

  •  We need democratic government... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    corazonroto, 417els, RockyMtnLib

    not special interest government.    

    The slogan touting "small" government ("the kind they can drown in a bathtub as I recall)  was devised  to weaken democracy so that special interests can run rampant in pursuit of the god, Profit.

    Once again all about vulturism vs we the people.

    "I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong." Richard Feynman

    by leema on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 10:22:27 AM PDT

  •  You can thank Reagan.. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    417els, RockyMtnLib, janemas

    for turning "government" into something evil and "big".

    If anybody hasn't noticed already, this country is pretty fucking big!

    Ever since, the words "big government" have been employed as this simplistic, meaningless catchall phrase by the right in an effort to demonize and strangle it.

    How you would go about administering what this country does with a "small" government is beyond me.

    "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!"

    by jkay on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 10:26:39 AM PDT

  •  A big, powerful, efficient and thoughtful (0+ / 0-)

    government is a very good thing. Even though the ladies don't like to admit it...size and the skill to get the job done right DOES MATTER and can be a beautiful thing...

    A giant bloated, wasteful, inefficient and harmful government is a very bad thing:

    Mr. President there is a serious problem with the EUC08 program...

    a Recovery Fraud Complaint ignored...

    An ARRA Implementation Error Exposed...

    •  Some things government does are (0+ / 0-)

      inefficient and I wouldn't want it any other way.

      It's not very efficient for someone standing trial to be presumed innocent until unanimously voted guilty beyond reasonable doubt by a jury of 12 of his/her peers. Neither is  it efficient that those declared guilty can appeal a few times.

      The Khmer Rouge was a horrific nightmare, but they were very efficient in killing a lot of people.

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

      by RockyMtnLib on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 02:21:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  We ARE the government, We The People. (0+ / 0-)

    The Republicans & Grover Norquist want to "drown us in a bathtub."
    About 30 years ago Republicans took over the franchise of "government is broken," got elected and then set out to break it further. The only thing they do when they have their hands on the reigns is use gov't to enrich themselves and who cares about those who don't have their hands on the levers of power.
    They are only in it for themselves.
    They depend on a segment of society that sees government as "the other." As always, we need to educate and motivate.

    Everybody got to elevate from the norm....

    by Icicle68 on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 11:06:25 AM PDT

  •  Excellent post (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    But one small point.  Our Government is NOT NOT NOT big!  In fact it is far too small.  Our Military is BIG with a BIG budget.  But remove this budget from the spending and the overall size of the economy our government represents is tiny compared to other "free" nations.  What could we do if it were bigger?  Well we could reduce costs through combined purchasing powers for roads, medical expenses, welfare, and other things.  Interestingly, if ones takes the small part of government that is responsible for social programs and privatized them all, this would then be much BIGGER in terms of the percentage of the economy it represents.  Imagine paying for the use of every roads you drive on at point of entry.  Gold coins for educational services when and where they are provided. The license and tags for your car will cost the full amount when you receive them.  Your house is burning- get out your gold coins again.  Officer, that man stole my wallet with gold coins in it — well then you have no way to pay me so too bad.  How much does it really cost to get water to your home?  You'll be paying it.  

    If everything was as Mr. Ryan would have it, it would represent far more of our economy than that same portion with government providing it.  That is because we the people DO have the right to band together for the common and financial good.  Dont believe me; insurance companies are balking because they must spend a certain portion of their profits on actual medical care.  This portion, interestingly, is less than the management cost the government takes in for medicare.

    The BIG Government mantra is the same as the kid on the playground that doesnt get picked for the team he wants so he pitches a fit and goes home with the ball.  Except in this case there is a good chance the ball doesnt even belong to him.

  •  no kiddin'. the same folks scared outta their skin (0+ / 0-)

    over the "Big Government" boogieman don't seem to be cognizant of or are totally ok with big banks and multi-nationals limiting their choices.

  •  A lot of people seem to have been convinced (0+ / 0-)

    that only the state can oppress you. A private entity could commit a crime or tort or otherwise make your life miserable, but it's still private therefore, by definition, it can't be oppression or tyranny.

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

    by RockyMtnLib on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 02:34:39 PM PDT

  •  I always supported big government. Seriously (0+ / 0-)

    this country is too big to run on the budget for a small country.  The idea that government is suppose to tax tax dollars and sit on it and wait till some politician decides to use the money for a corporate contract that has nothing to do with the people is insulting.

    How can the USA run a budget to manage every agency and welfare of the people as if the country was the size of England, or Spain, or Italy?  Small government for a population of 300 million people translates to government neglect.

  •  I hate big government (0+ / 0-)

    because to me it means government torture, domestic spying, war profiteering.  I understand that Republicans who oppose big government support all those things, but that only makes them hypocrites.

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