Friday, August 24, 2012

Why I Support 'Big Government'

The other day, I posted the following status update to my facebook page:

"I spend my days around social workers and the homeless--possibly the two demographics that Republicans hate the most".

I followed up that statement with the following comment:

"In the time I am not with social workers and the homeless, I am with my children. Since they are not fetuses, and attend public school, they are also a demographic Republicans don't care for."

I got a bundle of 'likes' from likeminded people, but also got a handful of e-mails from Republican friends and family who were offended by my hyperbole.

Mostly, they explained how they didn't fit into my stereotype: 'I am pro-choice and a Republican', or 'I like social workers and am a Republican', or 'I volunteer at a food kitchen and am a Republican'. The rest of their arguments all boiled down to variations on the following catchphrase: 'I just don't want government running my life'. One friend ended his statement  with the familiar bumper sticker, 'a government big enough to give you everything is big enough to take everything away'.

First, I apologized to everyone for painting an entire group with so broad of a brush. I have come to accept this part of my character: I am a divider, not a uniter. I like all of the people I offended with my comment, so I regret hurting their feelings. I have been pretty good at keeping the little demon of agitation that possess me in check lately, but sometimes she gets out.

Now, I am writing this, because goddammit, I think my friends and family are wrong. 'Big Government' in and of itself is neutral. You have to ask yourself, 'what is this big government doing?' My friends and family carry a fear of oppressive state regimes around in their mind. They are thinking of Stalin and Chairman Mao. But this need not be the case. 'Big Government' in a working democracy really equals a bigger influence for people not born with the gift of upward mobility, which--we have to admit if we are honest--is an American myth.

We do not get a vote in the activities of 'the 1%'. We don't get to elect the boards, or the C.E.O.'s. We can't vote on the type of healthcare coverage our employers offer us. We don't get to vote on the cost of an education, or any of the freedoms ascribed  us by our founding documents...only through government do we have any say about these things. It's only through government--an assembly of imperfect citizens, accountable to the general public--do the disenfranchised and the minority have a chance to build coalitions that allow their voices to be heard and their rights to be respected.

Government is not perfect, because people are not perfect. But government is the only thing standing between our society and the law of the jungle (survival of the fittest), which, at its bottom, is the foundation principle of the modern Republican party. We are a capitalist nation, and capitalism always devolves into a vast pyramid scheme. A strong, progressive govermnent is the only tool we have to make sure the rights of those not at the top of the pyramid are not completely fleeced away.

We are at a critical point in the history of our nation. We have an oppportunity in this presidential election to acknowledge that 'sometimes history needs a little nudge', and make a move towards a more equitable, fair, and universally prosperous nation, wherein the wider population has a larger say in the way things should be done. Or, we could choose to vote for a lesser voice for ourselves, and vote to further empower the already empowered, and hope that a few scraps might fall off of their bulging plates from time to time, enabling us to feed our families and pay for our doctor's bills.

I vote for 'big government', because government is the only vehicle that keeps the people--my people--in the race.

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