Last week, at a commencement address at the University of Michigan, President Obama spoke to the forces that are fomenting such vociferous protest against “big government”. He quite correctly pointed out, that in a democracy “the government is us”. In a very logical and pithy statement, the President pointed out that the right wing of the right wing, with its campaign against “big government”, is on the verge of committing societal cannibalism.
At this point in time it should be clear to all that a simple thing like logic is not going to get in the way of the right wing of the right wing. The Tea Party and its fellow travelers have drawn a rhetorical line in the sand of public discourse, the facts be damned. But if I had a chance to enter ideological fun house in which they spend so much of their time engaging in an incestuous thought process where illogic supports erroneous thought, I have a few questions that I would love to ask.
For example, exactly what part of “big government” is a problem? Perhaps Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who is way on the record as being against “big government”, would like to answer. After all, he must not be referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Small Business Administration, the United States Navy and the United States Coast Guard. These are all components of “big government” from which he has rightfully sought aid for the citizens of his state who are beleaguered by the BP oil disaster. I should mention, of course, that Governor Bob Riley of Alabama, and Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi, also stalwart opponents of “big government”, are on the record as requesting similar aid and assistance from “big government” in the face of a potential environment-wrecking calamity. Governor Rick Perry, Republican governor of Texas is on record as speculating that the BP oil spill might be “an act of God” but I would wager that he will be on line to get aid for the good citizens of the Texas Gulf Coast should the expected disastrous landfall of the oil spill occur. So I guess some kind of big government is acceptable.
Consider that, as this column is being written, the good people of Nashville, Tennessee, are literally up to their hips in flood waters. Dozens have died and over a billion dollars of property damage has been recorded to date. Acting swiftly and in stark contrast to the lethargic days of FEMA during the prior Bush Administration, President Obama has dispatched a veritable armada of federal agencies to help the distressed American citizens of that the Volunteer State. Once again, I would guess that some kind of big government is acceptable in the ideological fun house of the right wing of the right wing.
A little over a week ago, immense tragedy was avoided when a car bomb failed to detonate in Times Square in New York City. No one knows the number of dead and injured who avoided a grisly fate due to the fallibility of the bomber. What we do know is that the alleged bomber was captured within 53 hours due to the cooperation of the local, state and federal governmental authorities. And now there is one less terrorist lurking on the streets of America. And this amazing display of big government in action to protect the American people was not denounced by Sarah Palin, or Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, or Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour who is also the chair of the Republican Governors Association. Even the ever voluble Michael Steele, the head of the Republic National Committee has been silent on these cited examples of big government in action. The fun house of the right wing of the right wing is a strange place indeed.
Recent analyses indicate that 60% of the federal budget is for Medicare, Social Security and defense. Which of those areas would the anti-big government forces cut or eliminate? Turning to the other 40% we have the National Park Services, the Center for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration, to name but a few. Would the right wing of the right wing, sloganeering their way through simulated governance eliminate the agency that safeguards the food and drug supply for men, women and children? Would the Grand Canyon and Yosemite Park be privatized as the opponents of President Theodore Roosevelt’s parks initiative advocated over a century ago. Who would Sarah Palin turn to for help for her children, or your children, during the next swine flu epidemic if the Center for Disease Control were cut back or disbanded?
What has made the United States a global force for over two centuries as been its ability to combine the collective resources of this country to benefit all of citizens. It took Europe two millennia to learn this lesson. How ironic it is that the greatest example of collective governmental action within the context of a democracy is under attack from the people who benefit from it. But, of course, that is life in the ideological fun house of the right wing of the right wing.
Wallace Ford is the Principal of Fordworks Associates, a New York-based management consulting firm and is the author of two novels, The Pride and What You Sow.