Government Works and Your Taxes Are Well-Spent
For far too long, the conversation about government in this country has revolved around the false narrative that government is ineffectual, your taxes are wasted, and our elected officials are uniformly corrupt.
“Good Government Reader” is a blog devoted to the idea that this conventional wisdom is wrong. In fact, it couldn’t be more wrong. This blog will demonstrate that government in the United States has been highly effective far more often than it has not.
Government is more like business than people like to think. Both are groups of people attempting to accomplish a task and meet a goal. “Government is simply the name of things we choose to do together,” retired Congressman Barney Frank once said.
In the history of the United States, we have chosen to do some great things together — with government and presidents such as Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy playing leading roles. Here are a handful of examples:
- The building of the railroads.
- The launch of our National Parks.
- The victory over the Axis powers in World War II, followed by the visionary the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe and Japan.
- The interstate highway system.
- The space program.
- The Internet.
Somewhere along the line, a great many Americans have lost their faith in government as a concept — even though they still love the reality of how Social Security and Medicare and other federal programs help them and their families. A throwaway line by President Reagan summarizes the distrust of government that has built over the years: “What are the nine most terrifying words in the English language?” Reagan asked rhetorically, before supplying the punch line, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”
Ironically, despite those words, Reagan actually believed in the transformative power of government. His anti-government rhetoric was just that — rhetoric, a pose. Under Reagan, the federal debt ballooned from $908 billion to $2.6 trillion and the number of federal employees increased by 300,000.
Many of the politicians who have followed Reagan have taken his disparaging words about government literally. These derivative politicians have systematically blocked government spending that could have helped grow the economy. That’s the problem with putting politicians in office who don’t believe that government can solve problems. They don’t even try.
Government spending is an investment, an investment that makes the economic pie bigger for businesses and for all of us. The railroads, the highways, and airports we have built with tax dollars have helped lay an infrastructure foundation that has made the United States economy the envy of the world. Government investment in science and technology helped lay the groundwork for nuclear power, create the Internet and enable the mapping of the human genome. The politicians who supported these kinds of investments in our country have had a big vision for the U.S.
This blog believes we need our government to think big again.
In the months to come, “Good Government Reader” will present examples of effective, even transformative, government programs. “Good Government Reader” will demonstrate that when our government has thought big in the past, it has paid off in a big way. If we change our perspective as a nation on what government can do, we can think big once again. It is the only way to continue to achieve big things.