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Rethinking Big Government

Tom Degan: Shouldn't the argument be focused - not on "big government" - but rather on "good government"? Efficiency versus incompetence? We are now a nation of over three-hundred million people. The very idea that the government should be made smaller - or done away with entirely - is beyond idiotic.

Look toward the Gulf of Mexico this morning. Most of the states in that region seem to be an ever-so-slightly deeper shade of blue. Most of the people in that area of the country in the past have tended to vote for Conservatives. Most of them have been brainwashed into believing that so-called "BIG GOVERNMENT" is bad. And yet all of them, I'm am certain, are saying quiet prayers of thanksgiving as the sun now rises on those troubled waters, that their government is big enough (we hope) to cope with the current catastrophe. Most of the states that make up the Gulf region are doing some serious soul searching today. Most of them. Mississippi, I'm sorry to inform you, is terminally and incurably red. [SIGH]

man on moon

Perhaps we have arrived at that moment where the essence of the argument against big government has started to shift in a slightly different direction. Shouldn't the argument be focused - not on "big government" - but rather on "good government"? Efficiency versus incompetence? We are now a nation of over three-hundred million people. The very idea that the government should be made smaller - or done away with entirely - is beyond idiotic. Rather than wasting our precious time trying to come up with ways of shrinking it, we should all be working overtime trying to improve it.

"Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem." -Ronald Reagan's first Inaugural Address, January 20, 1981

As the decades ebb away and the judgment of history becomes more dispassionate, this truism will become increasingly apparent:

Ronald Reagan was a fool.

Once upon a time he was a liberal Democrat. As an actor in Hollywood in the thirties, forties, and fifties, he became fabulously wealthy by starring in a string of perfectly awful films. Back then, the rich were taxed more liberally than they are today. Reagan took a second look at his new fortune and decided he wasn't that much of a Lefty after all. For the rest of his life he dedicated all of his energy toward destroying the foundation of a new deal for the American people that Franklin Roosevelt put into place in the thirties - a new deal that had made a thriving and healthy middle class possible. Reagan was fairly successful in that destruction.

He also succeeded in deregulating industry and the financial marketplace. That deregulation was put into overdrive by his Republican and Democratic successors. What is now happening in the Gulf of Mexico - which could ultimately threaten the lives of every living creature on this planet - is their legacy. It is their gift to posterity. They can have it back.

I'd love to have a really frank discussion with one of the Tea Party types. I realize that this is wishful thinking on my part. It is impossible to have a rational debate with most of these knuckleheads. But just for the hell of it, let me give you what my side of the argument would consist of. It would be whittled down to a series of very simple questions :

Had the government been as minuscule or non-existent as you'd like it to be during the 1940s, do you think for a moment that the United States would have been able to defeat Hitler and the Nazis - not to mention Japan and Italy?

Do you actually believe the U.S. military would have been able to carry out the West Berlin Airlift a few years later - supplying that ideologically landlocked city with food and medicine for over a year, thus preventing mass starvation?

Is it your opinion that the teeny-weeny government of your fondest dreams would have been able to create the incredible interstate highway system during the age of Eisenhower?

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Are you actually that delusional that you think for a minute that the Soviet Union would have been very intimidated (if at all) by Jack Kennedy if he had had the watered-down, limited government that you're so fond of during the Cuban Missile Crisis?

Would a small government have been able to send Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldren to the surface of the moon forty-one years ago next month? Do you really entertain such thoughts?

Would the United States have been able to defeat and conquer Saddam Hussein in 2003 without the aid of strong and powerful government agencies behind it???


Okay, maybe that wasn't a particularly good example but you see my point, don't you?

I seriously believe that the governments of Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy would have been better equipped to handle the current crisis in the Gulf than the badly neglected and decayed one that was bequeathed to President Obama on January 20, 2009. As this mess spreads further out to sea and starts to effect a good deal of the planet, the United Nations (another perennial target of the extreme right) may have to become involved in the cleanup/rescue effort. It is laughably obvious that BP doesn't know what the hell it's doing, and the United States government simply does not have the technology. Time will tell, but unfortunately time is running out very quickly. As things now stand, the damage that has already been done will more-than-likely take a decade to clean up, and I'm being optimistic.

Here's the punch line. GET READY FOR IT! Some are now implying that this could go on until December - and beyond. Isn't that a jolly thought? Merry Christmas! I just did the arithmetic: We are now 46 days into this crisis and look at the mess thus far. The Yuletide is not for another 204 days. Can you even imagine how desperate the situation will be by then? I need a drink. You do, too.

Here's a prediction that I've been making for quite some time: The GOP is not going to make any significant gain in the upcoming election. The events of the last few weeks are only going to seal the deal. Think of the videotape footage that the Democrats have in their arsenal. Scores of Republican events from the previous two years with that moronic mantra being chanted:


Day by day, more and more people - moderates in particular - are becoming turned off by the mindless extremism. People are starting to ask themselves, "Do I really want to put these assholes back in control?" The answer will overwhelmingly be, "Nah, probably not." As befuddled and pathetic as the Dems have become in recent years, at least most of the silly bastards mean well - I think. With the Republicans it's a completely different story. The "party of Lincoln" has been thoroughly corrupted. They don't even pretend to be on the level anymore. It really is a wondrous thing to behold, isn't it?.

For the die-hards within the loony right wing, I don't suspect that the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is going to change their peculiar way of thinking very much. They'll continue to bitch and moan, as they always have, about big government while calling for tax cuts for the rich. That is as it should be, I suppose. People like that never admit error and it is unrealistic to expect them to change their ways any time soon. It's the people straddling the fence who are the ones that will deliver the big blow come November. Like the old tune says, they're "beginning to see the light".

Tom Degan