Leave Government Alone!

Welcome to Hair Guy, where the references aren't topical and the points don't matter.

Yesterday at work, as I dashed off the last few words of my blog about hurricanes or whatever the hell I was talking about, we turned on the TV in the writers’ office just in time to see Rick Santorum take the podium to address the Republican National Convention. I then realized that Hell is a very real thing which exists on Earth: It’s being stuck in a room with Rick Santorum, forced to listen to him give a speech so hammy a rabbi couldn’t eat it while everybody around you applauds, and you’re in Florida.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people who want to run the government talk so much shit about the government in one evening. I mean, with all the vitriol Santorum, Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin, and Baron Harkonnen were spewing about the evils of the government providing assistance to its citizens, you’d think there was some kind of personal vendetta at work, like maybe the Department of Health and Human Services screwed the Republican Party’s girlfriend or something.

Take, for example, this excerpt from Santorum’s speech, which came after he reminded us that he’d run for president but before he trotted out his developmentally disabled daughter for political karma:

My grandfather, like millions of other immigrants, didn't come here for some government guarantee of income equality or government benefits to take care of his family. In 1923 there were no government benefits for immigrants except one: Freedom!

In case you missed it, the bad guys in that anecdote are equality and providing for needy families. I guess freedom really is all you need – the freedom not to mind that women earn 82 cents for every dollar a man makes (all the more incentive to stay home and give birth to rapist’s baby, I guess!), or the freedom from your children when they die of polio you can’t afford to treat.

If you want to talk about shitty, fiscally irresponsible stuff the United States government does, why not focus on all the fucking wars, maybe? Those wars were way more expensive than feeding hungry children; in fact, a big component of those wars was dropping bombs on hungry children. And as if that weren’t bad enough, those bombs aren’t exactly cheap.

I don’t exactly relish paying taxes or anything, but if I had to choose what they went to, I’d much rather see them go to some family in the projects than a Predator drone that’s going to blow up a wedding party in Pakistan that a suspected terrorist may or may not have been at. Even if the family on welfare isn’t actively looking for work and they’re using the money to buy crack, I’d rather my tax dollars subsidize crackheads than dead innocent people, in a pinch.  

This might just be the fact that I’m an Oregon-raised atheist liberal talking, but in a lot of ways I really don’t see the idea of ‘big government’ as a scary thing. I’m crazy about big government, actually. I’d love it if we had a Veterans’ Administration so huge and well funded that every returning soldier had prompt access to high quality physical and mental care, or some tricked out Pell Grants for needy students, bridges that stay standing, levees that don’t collapse, maybe even a universal healthcare system or something? (I wouldn’t miss the DEA, though. We can cut that!)

In a way, the Republican platform is pushing for big government – it just happens to be exactly the sort of big government that scares me. No, you can’t get married, faggot, because the Constitution says so. You got raped by your Dad? Well, deal with it, you 15 year old girl, you. You want to go to college? Well, you should’ve thought about that before you were poor!

The big government I like opens a lot of doors by giving people options for education and healthcare if they can’t get it themselves; the big government the Republicans are pitching closes a lot of doors to people who aren’t white, Christian males with significant financial means. That doesn’t sound like freedom to me, but according to Rick Santorum that’s basically the one thing America’s got going for it at this point.

That’s not to say I’m completely opposed to privatization, either – I think private industry is going to rejuvenate space exploration, and I've read some compelling arguments that it would probably improve airport security too. The Republicans, though, seem to look at privatization as a magic wand made out of the ground up bones of Ronald Reagan that can make all aspects of government cheaper and more efficient while simultaneously making their friends rich.

The fact is, helping people isn’t profitable – that’s why you don’t see a lot of Red Cross employees driving Lamborghinis. Private enterprise is great for spurring innovation and driving the economy, but when a tornado hits your town, Disney and Viacom aren’t going to be there to help you rebuild, because the margins in rebuilding poor peoples’ houses and issuing grants to help them get back on their feet aren’t so great for the company.

Even when the government is writing checks for private enterprise to do some of these things, it still doesn’t turn out so well, since contractors tend to cut corners in search of profitability.

I see it like this: We’ve got a great thing going with capitalism right now. It’s super. But it tends to leave varying numbers of unlucky people out in the cold from time to time, and that’s why we’ve got government. It’s there to look after people when they’re having a hard time,* no matter how unprofitable it is, so that eventually they can recover and get back to work making money to pay taxes.

*In a perfect world, that is – one where bureaucracy is streamlined, all the forms can be submitted online, and they have a 99 cent coin for use at Taco Bell and thrift stores.

I’m no economist, and the one political science class I took in college was so boring that I dropped it after the first hour. All this shit about government being some selfless, Batman-style protector of the masses could be even more factually dubious than any given word being said at the RNC.

I just think it’s pretty telling that all the people calling for the end of government benefits in Tampa right now have full time jobs with six figure salaries and top tier healthcare. 

Truman Capps has no idea what he’ll write about after the election.