Many will be basing their choice tomorrow on whether or not they want “big government.” It turns out that when you stop to list the differences between Republicans and Democrats, both of them seem to want big government. Then you flip a coin, and both of them want small government.
The Republicans disparage big government more frequently, but over the past decade of their control they have made government much larger. They expanded government intrusion into people’s lives by the Patriot Act, stacked the Supreme Court with corporate servants, broke unions and pushed back civil rights, and raised the prison population. They have enlarged government debt by useless foreign wars and and impoverished it by tax cuts for people who don’t need them. While doing these expansions, they have continuously cried that they want government to be smaller, and because of the volume of the shouting, some people still believe this. So the tag of “big government” won’t adhere to them in the press. This is because the press is essentially recording the shouting and transmitting it to the public. Republican expansion of government and the willingness of GOP leaders and legislators, corporate lobbyists, cronies, and campaign sponsors to grow wealthy at the expense of small investors and working people brought us to an economic brink that we never should have faced. They literally expanded government and enriched themselves economically using the tax dollars, the home equities, and the livelihoods of citizens.
The candidates they have in the arena now want to continue this expansion by taking away the successful programs that serve citizens — minimum wage, student aid, Social Security, workers’ rights, civil rights, Medicare, Medicaid — and anything else that can be turned into money for corporations by bleeding services and opportunity from ordinary citizens. A prime example is the gun lobby. They shout “freedom” and make you believe freedom is served when you can carry a firearm, open or hidden, anywhere you want it. What they actually do is sell a boatload of guns to you to protect your own freedom, which they are supposed to be doing for you with your tax money. Then you have to live with the knowledge that when your child goes to the Mall, every second person there is carrying a gun. So you imprison your children, but that is okay because you buy them more video games and televisions. This is not freedom. A society that goes armed is free to bear arms, but every other freedom is curtailed by fear of everyone bearing arms.
Democrats here at the start of their decade have reduced the deficit and stopped the hemorrhaging of jobs, prevented a depression, passed health care reform that is budget neutral if implemented as written, and included young adults between 18 and 26 in provisions already in place. They have curtailed military activities in Iraq, and given us a more realistic set of possibilities and goals in Afghanistan. They have passed regulatory reform to stop abuses in student loans and make that area of the economy self-sustaining and economical. Wall Street reform is serious, and they have a good start there. They have passed a consumer protection law that regulates credit cards. They have distributed tax cuts and stimulus money where it does the most good, into the workforce for doing work that needs to be done and helping people recover from the recession. None of these things are bad. But admittedly, they are big. So the accusation that they are “big government” sticks. They have done big things.
The candidates that they have in the field now are by and large supportive of continuing the recovery. Even Virginia’s Rick Boucher, who famously voted against his own party on HCR, but is now being attacked for working on and supporting the Cap and Trade bill, is supportive of moving forward instead of backward. He still doesn’t like HCR because it will probably raise rates on Medicare Advantage plans, which are held by most of the folks in his district. He still doesn’t like Cap and Trade, because it gives the EPA control of carbon emissions. However, on both issues, he sees ways of improving the current position and moving forward. He vows to support Social Security and Medicaid, student aid, and the minimum wage. He is able to support the coal industry and still work for clean energy, so neither of these camps is completely happy with him. They want him to choose up a side and start yelling. I want him to keep working, because he is doing a good job for his district. In another district, Tom Perriello is fighting for his political life because he voted with his party for HCR.
In Virginia, where I live, the state government has no problem with appearing regressive or oppressive, which they interpret as “being for small government.” They want to become smaller by privatizing roads — creating toll roads– and selling off state resources that bring in tax money to the highest private bidder, presumably the largest of which would be Walmart. They have been actively opposing anyone who supported any initiative of the Obama administration or the current Democratic legislature, and are in fact using our tax money to sue the federal government to prevent implementation of HCR. They are attacking Democratic candidates by pursuing state university professors whose research supports global warming, shouting about Cap and Trade, shouting about HCR, and pointing out that they are the same party as President Obama and Nancy Pelosi. No Republican candidate in Virginia has produced any alternative plan for doing the work of the government in serving and protecting citizens.
So it is a matter of where government should be big and where it should be small. Democrats have a history of making government large where it takes care of citizens and small where it infringes on individual choice and freedoms. Republicans have a history of making government small where it wrings out citizen support, protections, and resources and large where it enriches corporate interests.
All governments are “tax and spend,” and governments of large nations are large. The distinction between the political parties is to be found in what they do with the taxes and how they express their largeness. I am voting for Democrats because I believe a government should be large enough to bring home the bacon for the ordinary citizen in infrastructure, services, and opportunity. I know my government is large enough to insure either 1) that every one of my neighbors is fed and educated and has health care or 2) that a few people get extremely wealthy and the rest of us have plenty of prisons.
I stand with Democrats for Option One.