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No Government Required

Year In and Year Out, They Tell You: Government is the Problem

By Brian Morton | Posted 9/7/2005

Ronald Reagan used to joke about it. He’d say one of the biggest lies in the world is “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.” Americans for Tax Reform executive director Grover Norquist wants to shrink the federal government down to the size “where we can drown it in the bathtub.” Government is the enemy.

A government that checks the meat that is sold so you don’t end up with trichinosis or E. coli, apparently it can’t help you—no need for the Department of Agriculture. A government that approves the drugs you need to beat disease, to heal your child, to keep yourself alive, apparently it’s of no use to you. No need for the Food and Drug Administration.

A government that monitors the markets to make sure that swindlers and cheats don’t defraud the old, infirm, busy, or preoccupied—there’s no need for it. So much for the Securities and Exchange Commission. A government that runs the systems that allows thousands of flights to take off and land safely every year, making air travel safer than driving—no need. Shut down the Federal Aviation Administration.

Government’s always the problem, they say. Shutter the Internal Revenue Service; the rich will always manage to hide their money, so it’s useless to try and tax them. Convenience is more important than fairness, multimillionaires like Steve Forbes say, once again trying to get you to pay his share of taxes for him as he pushes, yet again, his flat-tax plan. When asked if he won’t do better than anyone else under a flat tax, Forbes demurs by saying he’ll “do OK either way.”

What use to the wealthy, to the conservative, to the powerful is government? None, even when what may end up being the largest natural disaster in U.S. history lands on the shores of one of America’s poorer major cities?

While the rest of America was pouring out its heart while watching the devastation of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast of Alabama and Mississippi, the programmers at Fox News found the time to find an economist who argued that “the Founding Fathers never intended—Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution—never intended to provide one dollar of taxpayer dollars to pay for any disaster or anything that we might call charity.” Fox found one Jack Chambless, an economics professor at Orlando, Fla.’s Valencia Community College—I’m guessing this is the network’s way of thumbing their nose at those elitists in the Ivy League universities who might be, as Karl Rove puts it, “too educated”—to say that every time the federal government comes in after a disaster and fixes up the area the people “have no incentive to leave.”

Because, of course, the only people who ought to be allowed to live in New Orleans—or near the beach in Florida or enjoy an ocean view anywhere a hurricane might strike—are the wealthy, who can afford to pack up and leave and fix their vacation homes all by themselves with no government assistance. Like the story of the Illinois family profiled in the Chicago Tribune who spent $3,700 to leave New Orleans by limousine, while their Tulane University freshman son watched movies on his laptop in the back.

Predictably, the right wing will holler in outrage that liberals want to “politicize the disaster.” But in reality, politics affects everything. As Editor and Publisher reported Aug. 30, “On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, told the [New Orleans] Times-Picayune: ‘It appears that the money has been moved in the president’s budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that’s the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can’t be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us.’”

Many people in New Orleans didn’t have the money to rent a truck, rent a car, charter a bus. The median household income in Orleans Parish, according to 2003 U.S. Census data, is $28,645. Just for comparison, in Baltimore City it’s $32,452, and there but for the grace of your god go you. As one anguished woman wrote in her blog while watching the devastation, “They stayed because they could not run, and now they might die because they cannot swim.”

But government, no matter how badly it’s needed, no matter how awful the tragedy, is never the answer. The old, the infirm, and the poor, they always get what’s coming to them. As it was said a long time ago, everyone gets the same amount of ice in this life—the rich get theirs in the summer, and the poor get theirs in the winter. Those are your “compassionate conservatives” for you.

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Funny Business (6/9/2010)

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