I see an entire generation who doesn’t understand how government could work, because they were born into a political shithole called the Conservative Era of politics. When I was born, government was not demonized. People believed in its ability to work, so they tried to make it work. Government officials didn’t need to be required to wear their sponsors on their shirts like race car drivers the way they should be today. Both parties have always had their problems, racism being chief among them, but they weren’t bought and paid for by Big Business, Inc.
Reagan was the first person to come along and say, “Your government is out to get you.” The first thing he did was set about trying to prove that. He spent copious amounts on money on military contracts. By the end of the 1980s, the big conversation was about how the government had purchased $500 hammers and $200 toilet seats. They sure had — in military contracts negotiated by Reagan’s administration. Do you think Dwight Eisenhower’s administration paid for hammers at $500 a piece? If you do, you know nothing of the man or of that era of American history.
The next step in Reagan’s “government is evil” plan was to privatize, privatize, privatize. People believed their government was suddenly cheating them with high water bills, when in fact, the utility had been sold to a private company who was now bilking them. People believed the government actually had some say over ambulance services when they proved to be hyper expensive to the point where even their insurance wouldn’t cover it. Too many of those Americans thought the government was still running ambulance services. So, you privatize government services, wait for the quality to decline as labor is underpaid as the only means of cost-cutting, and then let Americans think their government did it. You let the government cut education to the bone, forcing class sizes to balloon, and then parents are complaining that public schools aren’t as good as they were when they were growing up (excellent throughout my youth).
Better yet, you cut government services, and make it seem like only “those people” are getting services. The classic American dumbassery is to not even know you have benefited from a government program.
The next step in the “government is evil” mantra was to suck the Democrats into it, too. Make the Democrats believe they can only win if they shift further and further right, until the Overton Window for politics ranges from right to far right in the country. Massive defense budgets, cut social programs, appointments to the administration of lobbyists. Bill Clinton was just Republican lite. Let’s see what did he do that was conservative? He passed the Crime Bill leading to more incarceration, the passed NAFTA against the wishes of unions and trade protectionists, he passed welfare reform, he got rid of Glass-Steagall, he signed the Defense of Marriage Act, etc.. Obama is a Rockefeller Republican. His health care bill was created by the Heritage Foundation and Mitt Romney. He decided to go with austerity budgets. He expanded immigration deportations. So, I wouldn’t blame you if you don’t see a difference between the parties. A lot of us have been waiting for the Democratic Party to come back to its roots since 1980. It isn’t going to as long as more than half of the party is conservative.
You don’t have the benefit of perspective. You don’t have the benefit of needing government services, and it is a benefit, because it makes you understand what all of the citizens in the country experience, and not just the privileged. You appear to exist in this libertarian vacuum where people get their neighbors to let them move in when they lose a job or their church to throw a bake sale when they need surgery. It doesn’t happen. None of the churches my parents belonged to helped us. Neither family nor friend lent a dollar when we were not eating. None of them volunteered to pay for mental health care for my parents.
I have written back and forth with you because you ask good questions and make thoughtful comments. What I find disturbing is that you have swallowed the Gipper’s line, hook-line-and-sinker,
“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
This unquestioned belief has been a self-fulfilling prophecy for 30 years. I’m lucky to live in a state that still believes in government. It is run well here and people believe in it. Interestingly, they sometimes vote in Republicans, and then everything goes to shit, and they have to vote back in Democrats to improve the education system again, ease the burden on social services, and provide economic incentives to businesses (the government provides an enormous amount of the money that goes to start-ups). One could also point to how Jerry Brown took California from Schwartzenegger’s fiscal disaster to the success it is today. Blue states consistently give the federal government more money than they get back. Red states consistently get more from the federal government than they give. States are supposed to serve as natural laboratories for policy, but a lot of Americans don’t seem to want to believe in policy science.