NEW: The Real Reason for Big Government
NEW: Govt is Good is now available in book form.
NEW: Join the discussion on the Govt. is Good FACEBOOK PAGE.
The Importance of Public Goods
THE DEFICIT SCARE: MYTH VS. REALITY
A DAY IN YOUR LIFE WITH GOVERNMENT: How public programs improve your life in innumerable ways.
Watch the satiric video: WHO NEEDS BIG GOVERNMENT?
BIG GOVERNMENT IS NOT YOUR ENEMY
STEALTH DEREGULATION: The Untold Story
Test Your Government IQ
What Americans REALLY Think about Government
A Guide to Rebutting Right-Wing Criticisms of Government
Additional Readings on this Topic from Other Authors
Beyond Cynicism about Government
Welcome to governmentisgood.com
Why a website defending government? Because, like many Americans, I am tired of the government bashing that is constantly coming from the political right. For decades conservatives have been demonizing government and not enough has been done to defend it. Ever since Ronald Reagan declared in 1981 that "Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem," Republicans have been waging a political war against this institution. They have been joined in this anti-government crusade by libertarian thinkers, Tea Party activists, right-wing media pundits, and wealthy corporate lobbies. This powerful political coalition blithely ignores anything good about government and conducts a relentless smear campaign against this institution. They constantly play upon the fears and insecurities of average Americans and encourage them to blame all their problems on big bad government.
Make no mistake: the goal of this anti-government movement is not merely to eliminate waste or make the government more efficient. The ultimate aim is to undo many of the basic government programs that have been in place since the New Deal and the Great Society. They want to slash spending on vital safety net programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. They would like to roll back key regulations protecting consumers, workers, and the environment. And they want to reduce taxes so drastically that funding any new government programs would become extremely difficult.
How far does this anti-government crusade want to go? Disturbingly far. Many of the Republican candidates for President in 2012 have called for the wholesale dismantling of entire federal agencies. The hit list includes the Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Interior, and Education. And at a time when polls show that a majority of Americans want increased regulation of the energy industry, health care companies, and the financial industry, these candidates are saying they want much less oversight. As Ron Paul has explained: “I don’t think we need regulators.”
In the previous election, in 2010, many conservative candidates for Congress leveled similar extreme attacks on government. In an impressive display of anti-government paranoia, several Tea Party candidates for the House warned that the federal government had become so dictatorial and oppressive that an armed rebellion was not out of the question.
This website is a response to this irrational and distorted depiction of government. It makes the case that government – despite its flaws – plays a valuable and indispensable role in promoting the public good. In reality, most government programs are working well and are actually improving the lives of all Americans in innumerable ways.
This online resource will show that government is not the problem; it is actually the only solution to most of the pressing problems we face as a nation – including infrastructure decay, high unemployment, global warming, and a spiraling health care costs. If we want an America that is prosperous, healthy, secure, well-educated, just, compassionate, and unpolluted, we need a strong, active, and well-funded public sector.
The conservative attack on government has had widespread negative effects on our society. One obvious example was the mortgage system collapse and the ensuing deep financial crisis that is still affecting millions of Americans. It is clear that this economic meltdown was caused in large part by conservative-led cutbacks in government regulation of financial markets, and that re-regulation of the financial sector is essential to avoid such problems in the future.
More energetic government is necessary in a whole range of areas in our society, not just in the financial sector. The anti-government philosophy of deregulation has not only proved a disaster for the financial system, but also for food safety, energy policy, and environmental protection. And cutting local and state taxes has led to school budgets being slashed, public safety workers being laid off, libraries being closed, poor children being denied medical care, and bridges and roads falling into dangerous disrepair.
Articles on this site challenge many of the common arguments that conservatives use to justify their crusade against government. Consider, for example, the charge that the federal bureaucracy is growing at an uncontrollable rate. Simply not true. The facts are these: in 1970, 2,997,000 civilians worked for the federal government; by 2010, that figure had grown to – or rather been reduced to – 2,841,000. In 1970, federal bureaucrats made up 3.8% of total U.S. workers, while in 2008 they made up a mere 1.9%. So much for the ever-growing federal bureaucracy.
Most of the other traditional conservative criticisms of government are off the mark as well. This site shows that Americans are not hugely overtaxed, that big government does not inevitably impinge on individual freedoms, and that government is not the natural enemy of business.
This is not to deny that American government has its problems. There are incidents of waste, some regulations are poorly designed, and some politicians abuse their power. More importantly, our government is certainly not as democratic and accountable as it could be, money plays too big a role in politics, and special interests have way too much political power. Such problems need to be fixed, and this site identifies several needed reforms. Nonetheless, whatever drawbacks this institution has right now are far outweighed by the enormous benefits that we all enjoy from a vast array of public sector programs. On the whole, government is good for us.
In fact, democratic government is one of the greatest institutional inventions of modern Western civilization. It allows us to pool our resources and to act collectively to address the serious social, economic, and environmental problems that we are unable to deal with as individuals. The public sector is also how we provide for essential human needs that are neglected by the market – such as clean air and water, safe workplaces, and economic security. What’s more, government serves as an essential instrument of moral action – a way for us to rectify injustices, eliminate suffering, and care for each other. In short, democratic government is one of the main ways we work together to pursue the common good and make the world a better place.
HOW THIS WEBSITE IS ORGANIZED
- The War on Government. This section of the site chronicles the unrelenting assault on government being waged by conservative forces in this country. Articles describe how cuts in social programs and rollbacks of regulations have harmed the health, safety, and welfare of millions of Americans; how these assaults have taken place on many fronts – in Congress, the administrative branch, and the federal courts, as well as on the state and local level; and how the right’s radical anti-government agenda is out of touch with the views and priorities of most Americans.
- Why Government is Good. This section describes how government acts as a force for good in society. One piece chronicles a day in the life of an average middle-class American and identifies the myriad and often overlooked ways that government laws and programs improve our lives. Other articles describe the forgotten achievements of government; how government serves as an instrument of “good works;” how public sector policies and institutions protect and enhance our freedoms; how a free market economy would be impossible without the elaborate legal and regulatory infrastructure provided by government; and why we need more – not less –government.
- How to Revitalize Democracy and Government. There are, in fact, some problems with American government, and we need to address these if we are to restore Americans’ faith in this institution. Right now, the main problem with our government is that it is not accountable and responsive enough to the public. We have a deficit of democracy – with special interests too often winning out over the public interest. Articles in this section describe this problem and how we can fix it. There are several reforms – including public financing of elections – that could help our government live up to its democratic ideals. The final piece discusses several political strategies for rebuilding and revitalizing the public sector. This includes a campaign to “reframe” the way we think and talk about government. We also need to develop a pro-government coalition in this country. Political groups that depend on active and well-funded government – environmentalists, women, minorities, labor, teachers, etc. – need to move beyond their own narrow policy concerns to embrace a wider political vision that promotes government as a good in itself.