Monday, January 08, 2007

Government is Not a 4-Letter Word

It is no secret that Americans are distrustful of government. In a conversation I had the other day with an employee of a Republican Senator, the same old arguments came up when talking about "helping the poor" - it'll raise taxes, and aren't private and faith-based groups better positioned to help these folks anyway?

I am very sympathetic to the accusation that government programs are often top-heavy and loaded with waste, inefficiency, and bureaucracy. Goverment programs - indeed - are not the solution to all of our problems. I am not a poster child for government programs. However, in our zest to quickly eschew anything that contains the "G" word and "helping people" in the same sentance, I think Americans often forget the good that government can do when properly funneled. While government policy alone will not end poverty, it must be one tool in our toolbelt. The "free market" (which is anything but free - have you seen our trade policy and subsidy packages?) will not be looking out for everyone, and well-placed policy can go a long way toward helping some of those left out and left behind without penalizing everyone else.

Some of these points are well made by Paul Krugman in his Christmas op-ed in the NYTimes, which is brief and worth the read:

He looks to the success Britain has had in recent years in fighting poverty by simply enacting some common sense approaches. And before you critique it before reading it, it is not socialism; it is not big government; it is not government handouts. It is common sense legislation that puts the common good ahead of partisan bickering and ideological martyrdom.

It is a shame that in America, I just don't have the faith that our parties can come together and enact similar measures, even when they have done well in other nations and seem to make sense.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're right! I counted. 10 letters. Wow.

6:15 AM  
Anonymous Catherine said...

Well written article.

6:56 PM  

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