The Federal Government has been much in focus in these past few days. The near failure to pass a budget almost shut down many functions of government, including paying our troops in the field (something that generated the most concern). But the government is funding far more than the military. And I am constantly amazed at the disdain I see expressed by people (left, right, and center) toward “the government”.
I do recognize that this is an American tradition that has existed since the formation of our nation. Our nation was founded, in part, because we felt micromanaged by a far away government. There have been tax payer revolts, funds being poorly spent, and bureaucracy and corruption since the earliest days of our country. This generates distrust of government institutions. And our current and ballooning federal deficit does nothing to add to the perception that our government is failing to function on a fundamental level.
And yet, I often think we take so much for granted in our nation, much of which is funded and functions performed by our federal government (well beyond the military). We have free (or near free) education for most of our children. We have an incredible system in place to prevent diseases. We have “an army” of police officers and detectives, coast to coast, to help prevent crime and incarcerate those to dangerous to be a part of society. We have publicly funded hospitals which help us in emergencies and when we get sick. We have one of the best highway systems in the world. If the truck in front of us jackknifes, we crash, and are dying on the side of a road, it is largely federal funds which get an ambulance to us (or an air evac unit), gets our car off the road to prevent future accidents, and clean up the accident scene. We have libraries and parks which make life better for so many of us. Our elderly are not destitute, but are funded by savings the government has helped them make through the social security system. We have street lights at night. We have agencies which scan our night skies to look out for asteroids which may fly too close and make new discoveries in space. We have people looking out to make sure our airplane doesn’t crash into another. We have folks who spray for insects so we aren’t overridden by mosquitoes and other pests. We have clean tap water (the lack thereof is something that contributes to so much disease in much of the world). We have agencies which respond to disasters. We have diplomats, all over the world, who give us a heads up of much of what we need to know in the rest of the world and help others understand us. You get the idea, I could go on and on.
We do, of course, need to live within our means. We can’t have everything and not pay for it. The fiscal conservatives are absolutely right on this point. But what we also must do is look at both income and expenditures. It is highly unrealistic to think that we can solve our problems by just reducing spending.
I like it when people recognize folks who work in the military. But we have a wealth of other public servants out there. While there are some that we might no longer be able to afford and others who waste federal money, “the government” is largely made up of good and hard working folks, doing important jobs, who do not deserve the disdain we have all read all week long. Opinion polls reported that fifty percent of the population didn’t care if the government shut down! That means we have many people who do not understand what our lives would be like without them on any long term basis. We need to begin to appreciate what our government is actually doing a whole lot more even as we change things.
That’s my two cents. What do you think?