The Myth of "Big Government" ...Barbra Streisand
Posted on September 25, 2003
What is "Big Government?" We've been conditioned to believe these are bad words - but when Hurricane Isabel ripped through the East Coast last week, leaving many homes and businesses significantly damaged in its wake, Bush told disaster relief workers and governors of the affected states, "If you need help, let us know." This was not Bush showing his "compassionate" side... this is what the federal government does -it helps people in need. Contrary to Republican slogans against "Big Government" or "Tax and Spend Liberals," if you look at the reality, government spending is a key part of what makes this country function and provides the services that Americans both depend on and take for granted.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the agency Bush extolled in the Southeast this week, is designed to help Americans in crises - be they victims of natural disasters, or victims of extreme poverty. Agencies such as FEMA are what make our country able to bounce back from tragedy and unforeseen events, just as schools educate our children, firefighters fight fires, police officers keep our streets orderly, a decent highway system allows us to move freely, national parks maintain our incredible natural resources, our military protects us from outside threats, the Center for Disease Control protects us from epidemics, and Social Security and Medicare programs insure that our seniors aren't thrust into poverty after so many years of hard work. These are just some of the basics of government. These are not entitlement programs. These are not excesses. These are not "special interests." This is what the government is supposed to do for you, the people.
So when Republicans, such as leading tax-cut proponent Grover Norquist, talk about reducing government to the size where they can "drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub," we need to examine what that world without government would look like. Do we want to live in a country without a legal system, without a military, without free education, without safety net programs? Is this the future most Americans actually want for their country?
We also have to understand the connection between taxes and spending. It is our taxes that pay for these services, so Bush's two big tax cuts for the wealthy will, eventually, result in a cut in the services that all Americans depend on everyday, unless the tax cuts are repealed. So far, Bush has been more or less coasting on a policy of tax cuts and spending increases, such as the additional $87 billion he now is asking Americans to shoulder for Iraq. Meanwhile, he has cut spending for state-administered programs - plunging state governments into crisis, and has created unfunded mandates with catchy titles, such as the No Child Left Behind Act. Bush is dangerously betting against the future... turning an enormous surplus into an enormous deficit that future generations will have to grapple with. Eventually, we will be forced to have a national discussion about either repealing the cuts or asking the question: What everyday government spending programs are we really ready to do without?
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