Stop Demonizing Government
Government isn’t bad. We need government. You wouldn’t know that from listening to the media, especially in this time of crisis in our democracy. Voices speak with venom about “unelected bureaucrats” as responsible for everything bad that is happening. Unelected bureaucrats are vilified by voices speaking from the private sector. You would not know that it is the elected bureaucrat who is accountable to you through the governments they elect. Private sector representatives are not accountable unless they are regulated by the public sector. This is the reason the President has been on the warpath against any kind of regulation, because regulations work against the interests of the very rich. And that is why the tax cuts for the rich, which come from the money you lost, have not benefited you. Victims of the hurricane in Puerto Rico are an example. They are getting rebuilding aid money from the federal government (FEMA), but in derisory small sums. The tax money the 1% should be paying isn’t coming in to be used for the public welfare like disaster relief. They can afford to pay those taxes. Their keeping their money doesn’t translate into any (or very little) benefit for the other 99% of taxpayers.
Following the Republican script what are taxpayers getting? Nothing. They are not using the money from unconscionable tax cuts to raise your wages, build your roads, protect against the disaster, or give you fast and safe public transportation. Your wages have not been raised, your healthcare has not been improved, your children’s public education has been so downgraded that there are communities where they can only go to school four days a week. Public service is called public service for a reason. It is benefiting you, the individual member of the public. The elected bureaucrat is, in fact, accountable to you. You elect the government that hires qualified people to stop your water being contaminated with lead or hog excrement. It’s the private sector that isn’t accountable to you. How much are you, the taxpayer, paying for regulation versus how much are you going to be paying if there isn’t any regulation?
Americans needed government regulations for a gas company like Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, which was allowing too much pressure to build up in gas pipes in Lawrence and other towns in Massachusetts. The company is one of these labyrinthine private entities, hard to regulate in any event, with its parent company being an obscure entity not in Massachusetts but NiSource in Indiana. Because they weren’t regulated 80 houses blew up from exploding gas pipes; one person died and 20 were injured and 8,500 homes and businesses were affected.
In Washington’s Metro area the plan is to outsource to private companies the extension of the Metro line to Dulles Airport, including maintenance. The goal is to “save” the taxpayers mostly because the private sector employees won’t get pensions. This transportation is a public sector operation. Public sector employees should get pensions. This privatization also puts profits ahead of safety. What is to say the selected corporation will not shortcut safety the way the gas company did in Massachusetts. In the end, it won’t save money. The money should be there to ensure both pensions and safety.
The government should get the funds it needs – totally legitimately – from reasonable taxation of the very wealthy.
Taxpayers need government regulations so that you have taxpayers who don’t drink water contaminated with lead as in Flint Michigan – still! – or nowadays in the wake of hurricane Florence, water with hog excrement. These are not difficult regulations but people need to recognize that a country is no better than its government and that what makes democracy function is an elected government that staffs agencies to build roads, to hire police, and to care for the sick and elderly.
–Elizabeth Spiro Clark, Chair, Committee on Public Policy and Political Action