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The stereotypical "big government liberal" is a conservative confabulation that has been reverberating from Republican echo chambers since the Reagan era, and was calculated to alienate Americans from the political left. In truth, nobody likes big government more than the Republicans--as long as it serves their agenda.

Despite the tired, old stereotype of the "tax and spend Democrat," Republicans are just as spendthrift, only they're a lot sneakier about it, and they spend the money on different things. Whereas Democrats like to raise taxes on corporations and spend money on citizens, Republicans prefer to give 60$ billion in tax breaks to corporations that offshore American jobs while slashing $40 billion in food stamps for the people whose jobs they outsourced. It's a shell game. The only difference is who gets the cash: the idle rich, or struggling Americans who actually need the help?  

The concept of the liberal who blindly loves "big government" is equally absurd, and has even less foundation in reality. Virtually all of the significant anti-government protests that have taken place in this country, from the "Occupy" movement on Wall Street to the riots and anti-war protests of the Vietnam era, were orchestrated by liberals, i.e., individuals on the political left, which has always had an adversarial relationship with authority. The most extreme example of this was a radical 1970s leftist group called The Weather Underground, which declared "war" on the U.S. government and actually bombed several government buildings including the Pentagon, The Capitol building, and the offices of the State Department.

"Republicans prefer to give $60 billion in tax breaks to corporations that offshore American jobs while slashing $40 billion in food stamps for the people whose jobs they outsourced."  
Much as conservatives like to say they hate "big government," the record suggests otherwise. Conservatives today are no different from their 1970s counterparts: "law and order" types who championed "Americanism" over communism, and who believed in a massive and powerful military and a strong domestic police presence. They wore crew cuts, and waved the American flag, and were horrified and disgusted by the long-haired, liberal, anti-government politics of the hippies and civil rights activists who dared to criticize American policies. "America, love it or leave it!", they screamed at the protesters.
"We have got to accept Big Government for the duration—for neither an offensive nor a defensive war can be waged, given our present government skills, except through the instrument of a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores. And if they deem Soviet power a menace to our freedom (as I happen to), they will have to support large armies and air forces, atomic energy, central intelligence, war production boards, and the attendant centralization of power in Washington..."                   - William F. Buckley
No, you're not seeing things. William F. Buckley actually said that. He was championing "big government" (his words), openly arguing for the establishment of a totalitarian bureaucracy. Again, his words, not mine. In this moment of intellectual honesty, Buckley reveals a bracing truth about American conservatism, which is that it's not really against a big, totalitarian government as long as that government is serving at the pleasure of--or even better, enforcing--an agenda they approve of. (This is an old phenomenon, with roots dating all the way back to the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, but that's another story, for another article.) Buckley said this during the Cold War, but it may as well have been Dick Cheney or Don Rumsfeld, talking about the War on Terror.

It was conservatives--not liberals--who engineered the biggest and most unprecedented expansion of government power in U.S. history. After the attacks on 9/11, conservatives under the Republican administration of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney led the charge to write the Patriot Act, to establish the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Safety Authority, along with a galaxy of other agencies that most Americans don't even know about. They vastly expanded the powers of our intelligence services and wrote a blank check to the N.S.A., who, for the last several years, has embarked on a massive, nationwide program of constructing secret facilities domestically and abroad, along with an unprecedented expansion of our domestic and foreign intelligence-gathering infrastructure. The cost of this Neocon-driven expansion is enormous, but it's so classified, the American people will never know the true cost. (For a great film on the subject, check out this eye-opening Frontline documentary, Top Secret America.)

Big government liberals? How about big government conservatives? When Republicans got control of the White House and both houses of Congress, they launched the biggest power grab in U.S. history, funded by taxpayers who will never know the total cost because it's classified.

Then there's the matter of two wars--Afghanistan and Iraq--that were started not by Democrats but by hawkish Republicans Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld. To date, these wars have cost the American taxpayer approximately $4 trillion. Once again, liberals didn't do that. It was the "tax and spend" conservatives who just love to soak the American people almost as much as they love their giant security infrastructure. If you add the 300,000 people killed in those conflicts (many more indirectly), the moral cost is incalculable.

The United States has hundreds of military bases all over the world, most of which are totally unnecessary. There are so many bases, even the military doesn't know exactly how many there are. (I'm not joking.) Estimates are between 700-1000, the majority of which would have been closed long ago if liberals had had their way. Unfortunately, war-hawk conservatives won't let them, and woe to the congressman foolhardy enough to suggest such a thing, because come mid-term elections, his political opponents will accuse him of being "un-American," "soft on terror," or "trying to gut the military." To Paul Ryan and the other deficit hawks who lie awake at night, fantasizing about ways to cut Medicare and Social Security, I say, go shut down those 900 military bases we don't need and sell the property. Then we'll talk.

"Big government liberals? How about big government conservatives? When Republicans got control of the White House and both houses of Congress, they launched the biggest power grab in U.S. history, funded by taxpayers who will never know the total cost because it's classified."
Conservatives hate government when it implements social programs, passes environmental legislation, or raises taxes on corporations and the rich, but they adore it when it serves their political or financial interests, such as when we wage an imperialistic war to protect American business interests, or to impose our values on other cultures. Such military actions have the added advantage of making windfall profits for defense contractors like Lockheed, Boeing, McDonnell-Douglas, and Halliburton--companies that contribute heavily to conservative political campaigns. Republicans claim to support the military, but that's a lie. They don't support the military, they support military contractors. How else to explain why Republicans voted, almost to a man, to kill the Veterans Jobs Act even as they passed $700 billion worth of defense appropriations, most of which will go into the pockets of private military contractors?  

The Wall Street debacle that nearly trashed the global economy was the result of a variety of things, one of which was President Clinton's pulling of the last tooth out of the Glass Stegall Act, however Clinton was only the latest and smallest cog in a giant deregulation machine driven by Alan Greenspan, the financial services industry, and their powerful lobbyists (which number nearly 50 for each member of Congress), who had been working tirelessly, relentlessly, for decades to gradually remove most of the financial protections that had been put into place by the Securities Act of 1933 and other financial reforms passed in the aftermath of the Great Depression. Clinton was just the last guy to pull his finger out of the dyke. But make no mistake who was behind it all: Wall Street bankers, the super-rich, and their mostly Republican allies in the Congress. (New York Senator Chuck Schumer, like Bill Clinton, was one of the few Democratic Judas goats running interference for Wall Street, but by and large this has always been an overwhelmingly Republican activity.)

In the teeth of the massive bank failures that followed, who was it that bailed out the big Wall Street banks to the tune of over $400 billion? The Republican administration of George W. Bush. And what was the final cost of the largely Republican-driven deregulation of Wall Street that resulted in the 2008 Recession? $12 trillion. Add that to the $4 trillion cost of our two Republican wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that's enough to defray the entire national deficit the Republicans keep banging on about with Benghazi-like frequency.

It's not as if they haven't done it before. In the 1980s, U.S. taxpayers had to cough up over $400 billion to bail out hundreds of failing savings and loans after Reagan deregulated the industry, resulting in massive systemic failures due to the ensuing orgy of greed and corruption. By some estimates, the Reagan Savings and Loan bailout cost approximately $1,000 for every man, woman and child in America.

Then as now, Republicans and the super-rich found a way to socialize their losses while privatizing their profits. (What was that again, about big government, tax and spend liberals?)

Ronald Reagan famously derided the government as the problem, not the solution, and Republicans have been chanting the idiot mantra ever since. What they neglect to consider is that the purpose of government, like the police, or the fire department, is to serve and protect its citizens, whether from foreign invaders or the predatory behavior of corporate robber barons. If it is only partially successful--or not successful at all, as in the case of Wall Street--that's only because rich bankers and their Reagan-loving, Greenspan-worshipping, deregulationist allies in the Congress have spent the last 30 years relentlessly hacking away at the laws designed to protect us from precisely the sort of catastrophe that happened in 2008.
"By some estimates, the Reagan savings and loan bailout cost approximately $1,000 for every man, woman and child in America."
Liberals do not "love" big government anymore than a woman who needs an abortion "loves" abortions. In a perfect world, there would be no need for governments, or laws or rules. Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world, and in those places where there is no responsible central government--such as Somalia, or Indonesia--life is brutal, savage, and horrifying. Unless we can somehow magically eliminate evil and greed and bad behavior from humankind--especially on the part of those with unlimited access to money, weapons, and political power--responsible government, with all its faults, is the far lesser of two evils. If you don't believe me, check out the documentary, The Act of Killing. It is a harrowing portrait of what it's like to live in a rabidly anti-socialist, totally free-market society with no rules or regulations except Ayn Rand's "do what thou wilt" (which is also the motto of Anton LaVey's Church of Satan), a brutish, animalistic society of survival of the fittest, where he who has the most power, money, and weapons wins. It's not a world that any sane, normal person would want to live in. A psychopath, maybe. (Then again, most conservatives are borderline psychopaths.)

Far from "loving" big government, most prominent liberals, such as Noam Chomsky, believe as I do, that we must never completely trust the government. Chomsky furthermore states that any form of authority should constantly be required to justify its existence--to prove why we need it--or else be automatically disbanded. As Thomas Jefferson said, "When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty."

Conservatives love to invoke the founding fathers these days, however what they conveniently ignore, as often they do when confronted with a scientific fact or historical truth that doesn't corroborate their crackpot delusions or their simplistic, child's crayon view of the world, is that men the likes of Jefferson, Adams, Franklin and Paine--the men who wrote our Constitution--were highly educated men, students of Cicero, Seneca, Locke, and Voltaire. They were the intellectual "progressive liberals" of their day, and would loathe with every atom of their existence the unlettered and tyrannical ignorance of modern conservatism.

But conservatives aren't interested in the truth. The warm, comforting flow of right-wing effluvia being excreted nonstop by Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Fox News, and the Koch Bros. propaganda machine is, in true Orwellian fashion, almost the perfect opposite.

RECOMMENDED VIEWING: Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream

16th century illustration of execution by heavy mallet.
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