March 3, 2024

is the answer

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
Government is the answer
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
          WASHINGTON — Ronald Reagan used to say the most terrifying words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.” His anti-government crusade set the groundwork for 40 years of stigmatizing federal programs by painting government as the enemy. The assault on the Capitol on January 6th was the ugly apex of this decades’ long demonization.
          But we are the government, and we have joined together for our mutual benefit. As life grows increasingly complex, government’s role in defending, supporting, and helping people evolves along with people’s needs. The simplest analogy is how government adapted and grew when America moved from the farm age to the industrial age. As people moved into cities, the need for sanitation, policemen, firemen, health care, and building codes became apparent, jobs that fell to government.
          There was even a time when the nation lacked a standing Army and Navy. A few wars changed that erroneous concept.
          There was a time when referees (regulators) and rules were almost completely removed from the economic playing field. That was the late 19th and early 20th Century age of the Robber Barons when great fortunes were amassed by unfairly and unethically creating monopolies and exploiting workers. Now, thanks to the trickle-down economics and deregulation politics of the last 40 years, those times have returned.
          America is a capitalist country in the best sense, but as Senator Elizabeth Warren says, “Capitalism without rules is theft.”
          Enter President Joe Biden and his first address to a joint session of Congress. He matter-of-factly said the era of “trickle-down economics” was never effective, and that his policies will build the economy from the middle out instead of lowering taxes for the rich and waiting for the phantom benefits to filter down.
          He unapologetically made the case for raising taxes on corporations to help pay for investments in infrastructure that will benefit everybody, and on individuals and families earning over $400,000 to help cover the cost of early childhood education, two years of community college, and eldercare.
          Republicans call this socialism, and it is socialism in the same sense that Medicare and Social Security qualify for that label. These programs are popular because they provide needed services that people cannot always provide and pay for themselves.
          And when government workers who work for us run afoul of us, as when unarmed Black men are killed by rogue police officers, the solution is not to lessen government involvement by ending the police; it is to increase government involvement by fixing the problem through increased vetting, training, and supervision.
          The good news is that President Donald Trump and his anti-government policies exposed the dark side of such issues and exploited the divisions for political advantage. Now that we’ve seen the worst of it, it’s time to reclaim government or, as Biden put it, “It’s time we remembered we the people are the government.”
          Douglas Cohn’s latest books are World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers) and The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency.
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2021 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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