Power of One: Conscientious Objector

Keep Counting

Nov 16, 2000 at 2:06 pm

power of one
"It's a difference of opinion," George W. Bush says of Al Gore. "He trusts the government. I trust the people."

Oh really?

Sure. Bush spent most of the campaign talking about limiting the power and influence of the federal government and giving more power to local communities, the standard conservative line. He doesn't believe the federal government should be involved in education, that this is best left up to the states. He doesn't think the government should provide healthcare, that this should be left to the private sector. He doesn't think the government should attempt gun control, that this restricts the people's liberty.

Bush doesn't even believe the government should run Social Security "like it's some kind of federal program."

He wants to incrementally privatize it, with success or failure depending on the stock market. He trusts each of us knows what's best for our money, and we will invest it responsibly. We can then augment our hand-back with the big tax cut he's promised us out of the supposed budget surplus, something else he doesn't trust the government to manage.

But if our federal government is so inefficient, so incompetent in managing our affairs, then how did the supposed surplus come about anyway? And if government is so invasive, abusive, and so inherently bad as Mr. Bush suggests, then why has he spent tens of millions of dollars to secure a top government job that only pays $200,000 a year? That seems horribly inefficient to me.

But then again, I happen to be a tax-and-spend liberal, believing it the basic purpose of government. In this misguided misunderstanding, taxes are what make life better. We all give a portion of our earnings, and in return we get a better country, from highways to retirement to rural electrification. Furthermore, this model holds no pretense of operating government like a business, as is the common fashion today, but recognizes that the purposes of business and government are diametric opposites. It understands that faster and cheaper are not always better, and rampant free enterprise inevitably leads to rampant mass suffering. In this model, the purpose of government is to protect the people from the abuses inherent in an industrial capitalist economy.

How did we arrive at the point where we recklessly blame all ills on Washington and its professional bureaucracies? Truth be told, our federal government is one of the great wonders, indeed envies, of the modern world, providing more services, helping more people, guaranteeing more savings, protecting more individuals than any other system in the history of the world. And it got that way because it is not theirs, it is ours.

We grew up with the notion our government is "of the people, by the people, and for the people," and one would think a firm belief in this principle would be a necessary prerequisite for anyone seeking public office. It follows than that the corruption of government occurs when the people cease to be involved.

Lord knows those poor folks down in Florida are trying to be involved, yet George W. Bush doesn't seem to trust them. He doesn't even trust his own brother Jeb in the application of Florida's state laws and has gone to federal court, of all places, seeking intervention in one of the most basic management tasks of individual states and counties.

One can see his point. George trusted Jeb to deliver the state of Florida for him, and he'll never do that again. And he resented Jeb's stage presence outshining his own. Yet the impossible situation of the Florida Governor was his own brother's creation; it proved a bit of a stretch for the bright, articulate, workaholic Jeb to convince his constituents that the decidedly dimmer, linguistically challenged, alcoholic George deserved to be leader of the free world. Seeing the two of them on stage together, Floridians couldn't understand why it wasn't their governor who was running for president.

Thank heavens that federal judge on Monday rightly saw the total lack of grounds for the injunction against the Florida recounts, and refused to intervene in what is so clearly a state matter. With any luck, sometime in the next month (predictions being pointless), the votes will all be counted and we will know who our next President will be.

George W. says we can count on him. Yeah, keep counting.

contact Michael Blankenship: [email protected]