Thursday, December 06, 2012

Most People Don't See Government Until It Stops Working: Reality Catching Up With Republicans

When government works, for most people, it's invisible.  We drive on government built roads. We (particularly white men) can mostly do our daily tasks without much fear of crime because of police and the courts.  We get clean water out of the faucet and most food is free of immediate health hazards* because of government food inspections.  We can take weather into account in our planning because of the US weather service.  The list goes on and on.

In most cases, it's only when government stops functioning normally, that we notice it.  Street lights are out and potholes don't get fixed.  The water is dirty or stops running at all.  Crime goes up.  And hundreds of things we take for granted can no longer be relied on.

We are approaching the so called Fiscal Cliff - when the Bush tax cuts and automatic sequestration (budget cuts) take effect at the end of the year if no budget deal is worked out by Congress and the President.

There's already been plenty of attention to the fact that Republicans will lose their fight big time if the Bush tax cuts expire.  Not only will taxes go up for the wealthy (which Obama wants but the Republicans don't), but they will go up for everyone.  And Republicans are likely to bear the blame.

But less noticed is the potential effect of sequestration.  When government stops working is when people will start to realize all the things their taxes pay for.  And that's when the fifty year war against government waged by the Republicans will be exposed to all but the most ideologically blinded.  It's then that people will realize how much benefit we get when people cooperate to do those things they can't do as individuals and which the free market can't provide without government help.  Things like public health, public roads, public parks, public safety, public education, utilities like electricity, water, and sewers, and the list goes on and on.  We've already seen what happens when government doesn't play it's role to monitor financial institutions.

When these government services start to disappear and the private sector can't replace them fairly and humanely, people will begin to understand all the things they get because of the public sector and because we share the expenses for our mutual benefit through various fees and taxes.

I'm not saying it's perfect, not by a long shot.  But neither is the private sector.  That's clear to anyone who has flown on any airline lately or had a $30 late fee plus hefty finance charges added to their credit card bill because it was two days late, or was pressured into a no-down payment home loan only to lose their house down the line. Or has seen the pollution left over by unregulated private corporations.

Obama's win, along with the Democrats picking up seats in both Houses of Congress, plus the approval of same sex marriage by voters in three states, was the first Republican ideological balloon to be burst by the prick of reality.

The result of their "Just Say No" legislative strategy now bringing us close to automatic tax hikes,  not just for the rich, but everyone else as well, is the second balloon to soon burst.

And when people start seeing how much their lives have been enhanced by collective cooperation through government - because  these programs will get cut back or disappear  with automatic budget cuts - the third balloon will burst.  They'll see how much that we take for granted exists because of government.  And then the Republican "Government is the Enemy" balloon will burst.

I realize that for many men, competition is everything, and for some, the personal impact of losing is painful enough that they will sacrifice their family and community to not lose.  And the nature of our electoral politics probably means that those who get elected are more competitive than the average.  But if the Republicans can't swallow their pride and say 'uncle,' they will lose more than the Democrats and we will all wake up in a new world in January. 

But Congress can  pass new laws then to start cleaning up the mess.  And the most politically palatable new laws for the Republicans will be tax cuts for those making less than $250,000 a year.  They couldn't possibly hold up those cuts if those above the threshold are excluded, could they? Will they really do this so then they can say they are cutting taxes rather than raising them now?  Just for ego?

And putting money back into the budget will be more difficult, but if they persist in their government scapegoating, they will be known in the future as the party that destroyed the United States. 

*I understand that there are hazards and hazards and that while the government is monitoring traditional food borne diseases, they are less vigilant of long term chemical hazards in our foods.

I also understand that both parties have good and not so good characters and that neither has a monopoly on rightness or stupidity.  But at the present, in my view, the Democrats' models of the world are much closer to how the world really works and Republican stupidity is in greater supply than Democratic.  

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