Over the last thirty years, anti-government arguments by conservative pundits and politicians have gained prominence, and the rhetoric this 2012 campaign season seems more toxic than ever. Republicans are relentlessly pushing the notion that lower taxes, less regulation and small government (except for defense) will magically end the recession and create a better country, and “job creators” will lift all boats.
It’s BS. As Congressman Barney Frank recently said, “I’ve never seen a tax cut put out a fire. I’ve never seen a tax cut build a bridge.”
Americans benefit every day from government—from consumer protection to roads and bridges to food and safety regulation—even people who claim to hate an “activist government” are some of the prime beneficiaries of the safety net at a moment when there are still over four unemployed workers for every available job and nearly one in six Americans lives in poverty.
But the GOP has wagered its future on ruthlessly and relentlessly attacking government—it isn’t about to let reality get in the way of its crusade.
Republican presidential candidates are tripping all over one another trying to prove who will take the biggest axe to government the quickest. So Mitt Romney labels regulations “the invisible boot of government to bring us all down” and argues that “we need to get the federal government out of education.” Rick Santorum fearmongers about “the narcotic of government dependency,” and Gingrich plays to old myths and racial stereotypes as he spreads lies about food stamps—one of the bright spots of the safety net in terms of responding to the needs of the Great Recession.
Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy is spot on in writing of Republican presidential plans to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency and FEMA, “So what happens when disaster strikes? Who comes to the rescue—the local church, the Rotary Club? Who ensures that our food is safe, the air and water clean?”
Understanding that government has always been fundamental to the success of individuals, businesses, communities and this nation is becoming a key issue in the 2012 election. Even if it must also be reclaimed from Super PACs, lobbyists, and Washington insiders, the problem isn’t “Big Government,” it’s Big Money capturing government.