By Paul Gereffi
[NALC] Branch 2550
Fort Lauderdale, FL.
How does it feel to be as moocher? You wouldn’t know? Sure you do. If you’re like everyone else you’re sucking benefits from the government every day of your life. Me, too! We all are.
President Reagan once said, “Government is not the SOLUTION. Government is the PROBLEM.” This is strange coming from a guy that was a triple-dipper. He received a pension as past president of the Screen Actors Guild, another as governor of California, and more from the public till as president. His widow is still collecting these benefits from a source he deemed as “THE PROBLEM.”
This statement has served as the mantra for those who think government is too big and intrusive in our lives. Government, they say, should be cut down to size and get off the backs of people and businesses, and get out of the way of profits by lowering taxes and eliminating regulations. Translation: let corporations run amok and do what they want and trust that they won’t hurt the environment and exploit their workers. But, that’s a whole other issue. Most of us rely on the local and federal government in ways we might not even realize.
A recent article in Time Magazine brought to light how much we are all dependent on the government each and every day of our life. Not me, you say? I don’t need any help, you claim? I’ve been self-supporting my whole life, you think? Think again!
Do you have a mortgage on your home? That’s subsidized housing. You write off the interest against your taxes and may very well have gotten a mortgage backed by the government. In a way, YOU’RE IN THE PROJECTS! Pay your electric bill every month, do you? You can thank the government for underwriting the cost of building the power plants, providing the land, and making sure that power is safe and affordable. Turn on the tap and out comes clean water. We never even give it a thought. Sure, you pay the water bill, but who pays for keeping the water supply clean and making sure safety practices are followed so you don’t get sick from dirty water? The government does. (That’s why when you travel to foreign countries you often get sick. DON’T DRINK THE WATER!)
Wait a minute. I went to high school and/or college. I earned everything I have. I did it all on my own. Of course, but you may have gone to a public school or state college, set up and subsidized by, you guessed it, the government via land grants, and also underwriting the costs. You may also have gotten a government backed loan or even a grant to attend college. Again, thanks to the government.
You’ve worked, you’ve earned, you’ve saved for your retirement. You opened an IRA or other retirement account. You are NOT going to depend on anyone! Really? Goodie for you moneybags, but the government subsidized your retirement plan by allowing it to be tax-deferred or, in some cases, deducted directly off your income.
And that bank where you put that money? Subsidized and backed by the federal government. You never have to worry about going to the bank and finding a “CLOSED” sign on the door, do you? That’s because deposits are insured and backed by the full faith and credit of the US Government. In the Depression, a run on banks forced them to close and many customers simply lost their money. For you “founding fathers” and Old West obsessed with the glorious past, in those days if the bank got robbed, you lost out. Simple as that. (“We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!”)
How about when you drive up north on vacation? Those beautiful freeways are part of the Interstate Highway system, built and paid for by the federal government under a program instituted by President Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower. Today, many people would consider that a boondoggle or a government “make work” program. Where would we be today without our Interstate Highway system? I don’t know about you, but “I like Ike!” Thank you!
Go to the grocery store and buy a can of beans. How come when you open it you don’t have to worry that it’s really dog food? Or spoiled, or poisoned? Because the government has a system in place that regulates the food and drug industry, better known as the FDA. That’s the same reason you know the medicines and prescriptions we purchase are safe, and are what the labels says they are. The government requires that we have to be warned of a drug’s possible side effects. Do you think those drug companies would admit to all those possible side effects during their commercials on their own? (May cause sudden death, explosive diarrhea, oily discharge, vomiting, and erections lasting longer than four hours. Oh, and gas, too.) The government makes them do that.
Finally, what happens when you get too old to work, or get sick, or suffer a debilitating illness? Who takes care of you? You guessed it, the government, through Medicare and Social Security. Programs that some want to get rid off or change so drastically they would no longer be recognizable and cost you and me big bucks. At a public hospital, you will never get turned away from the emergency room when you’re having chest pains because you don’t have insurance. Who pays? The government.
Local governments provide benefits too. Hey, Mr. or Ms. Big Shot business person! We know you’re smarter and harder working then the rest of us, but when you built your business, who provides you the infrastructure to make it possible? The roads, the bridges, the utilities, the delivery system that allows you to produce and distribute your product? (You didn’t build that!) The loan to start that business? Who do you call when someone sticks a gun in your face to rob your business and take your money and equipment? Or, steals your idea and tries to sell it themselves? Hey, you’re catching on! THE GOVERNMENT.
Now, none of this is really free. It’s our tax money that pays the freight. But our government is of the people, by the people, and FOR the people, right? Of the people, that’s you and me and everyone else. By the people, that’s the Congress we elect to represent us. And, for the people, that’s you and me, too. Someone running for president recently said, “Corporations are people, too.” Well, so is the government.
Is there an alternative to big government? Sure there is. We could let the military run our country and the president would walk around in camouflage fatigues or look like an overdressed doorman. That’s what they do in much of the world. How’s that working out for them?
Or, we could let government serve as the lackey’s for big business and take away regulations and hope they do the right thing. Hope that they treat their workers well and take care of the environment on their own. Or, we can allow them get ever more powerful and, hopefully, as they feast on profits we might be able to scramble on the ground for some of the crumbs as they fall off the banquet table. It was once like that here in this country…right before the Depression, and again with the banking system in 2006.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to cede control over my life to corporations, and don’t think living under military rule would make my life better. I’ll stick with the government we have and choose our own leaders if I want change.
At least I can drink the water.