I was a bit rushed yesterday when I wrote my last entry.
Here, as briefly as possible (but no briefer!), are a few of the points that got left out:
----- I don't understand why so many people who claim to hate politics and government are rushing to become politicians and be part of that government. It's even harder for me to understand how long-time politicians and government officials can spend so much of their time ragging on politicians and the very government that they've been part of for many years. It's perhaps hardest of all for me to understand how so many people can embrace these long-time politicians and repeatedly return them to office. Hey, if you hate government so much and think the business world is so great, why the hell don't you go get a job in the business world?
----- The constant conservative attacks on government and praise for the business world would be easier to take seriously if conservatives didn't keep ardently backing obvious incompetent fuck-ups like Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell. If you're going to run on a platform of competency, you simply can't keep putting forth candidates whose public and private lives resemble an unending series of train wrecks. If your candidate doesn't even know that Africa is a continent or what the First Amendment says, how can you even raise the issue of competency with a straight face?
----- Conservatives are fond of saying that the government can't create jobs - only business creates jobs. In fact, they've said it so often for so long without being challenged that everyone seems to think that it's true. Of course it isn't. According to the online sources I've just checked, the US Federal Government is just about the biggest employer in the country! Its total number of non-postal civilian employees alone is about equal to the number of people employed by the largest private employer, Wal-Mart (1.8 million). The Post Office employs about another 600,000 people. The military has about 1.5 million people on active duty and well over another million in the reserves. State and local governments employ another 8.3 million workers! Although conservatives might claim that these aren't "real" jobs, I'd like to hear them tell that to inner city high school teachers, or members of the Border Patrol, or the sailors in the Coast Guard who have just rescued a fisherman in trouble, or the nurses and doctors at a VA hospital, or researchers at the Centers for Disease Control, or any of the millions of others I could name. And I won't even try to list all the Pentagon suppliers or construction companies or transportation workers whose income depends heavily on government contracts. And then there's all the private sector jobs that depend on government workers providing safe water and usable roads and a tightly regulated radio spectrum (among many other things). The more you think about it, the more this constant attack on government seems like a body's immune system going crazy and attacking the very heart that keeps everything else going!
(SIDE NOTE: The craziness has come into sharp focus for me in recent years as cutbacks in the state of Ohio have resulted in the loss of thousands of government jobs. Last I heard, our current governor - a Democrat - has actually trimmed the state payroll by some 90,000 positions in the last 4 years. Have conservatives given him any credit for this? No! They insist he hasn't put enough people in the unemployment line even though his cuts have closed prisons and halfway houses and in many, many ways made life much worse for Ohio's poorest and most vulnerable citizens. Yet if Young Johnny Entrepreneur invents a new caramel candy popcorn that rots our teeth and adds to the obesity problem and results in a million popcorn bags littering the countryside conservatives will praise him to high heaven if he hires another hundred people to help him corrupt our eating habits and mar the countryside even faster. Their ideological blinders make it impossible for them to see that not every government job is a bad one and not every private sector job is a good one. They're like the churchmen who refused to look at the moons of Jupiter through Galileo's telescope because they already knew the "truth" about the perfection of the heavens and were confident that anything they might see to the contrary was merely an illusion created by Satan to deceive them.)
----- Our ancestors lived through all these arguments about government before. In the process, they learned just how wrong, impractical, and counter-productive the conservative approach can be. After throwing off the shackles of British rule, they tried a loose confederation. When that didn't work, they embraced a stronger central government. After the horrors of monarchy, many states tried giving their legislators most of the power and the governors very little. When that didn't work, they gave the governors more power again. After the South seceded from a "tyrannical" federal government, it lost the Civil War - partly because the South had fewer resources but also because the South's ideological opposition to strong government left its various states unwilling to cooperate with each other on even the simplest and most crucial things, such as taxes and military command. It's no coincidence that those areas of the world with very weak or non-existent central governments (i.e., Somalia) are generally referred to as failed states rather than paradises. And it's sadly ironic that just as Europe has finally overcome centuries of internal power struggles and wars and forged an increasingly effective European Union, the US is fragmenting into factions, at least one of which revels in endless attacks on centralized power....
Yes, I'll be the first to admit that government power *can* be abused and that too much authority *can* be placed in too few hands. I'm old enough to recall the injustices perpetuated by an FBI run by an unassailable J. Edgar Hoover, a CIA that improper oversight allowed to evolve into a kind of international Murder, Inc., and a series of administrations that sent conscripted young people halfway around the world to napalm millions of peasants attempting to forge a new, post-Colonial society. And I'm well-educated enough to know that government has been used to conduct witch hunts, perpetuate discrimination, massacre Indians, crush the early promoters of the labor movement, and snuff out victimless crimes (among numerous other bad things). There's a big difference, however, between criticizing the obvious misuses of government and demonizing government itself. It's a difference all too many conservatives seem utterly ignorant of.
It's an ignorance that shades into absurd hypocrisy when these conservatives reveal themselves to be more likely to defend rather than condemn the past misuses of government power that I just listed....