I have seen in countless facebook threads, in the aftermath of mid-term elections, that opposing big government solutions to problems are just mean. Seriously, that’s an actual argument. It follows, apparently, that if you oppose programs like minimum wage laws, welfare, Medicare or social security and other entitlement programs then you must hate poor people and want them to die in the street like some Dickensian nightmare. If you oppose government regulation of business then you must be some corporate shill bought and paid for by the Koch brothers.
This is a tricky topic to explain to people who don’t really follow politics, or take the time to develop an ideology that make sense to them. Knowing why you believe something is vastly more important that what you actually believe. Most people are too busy doing things that actually matter in their lives to sit for extended periods of time for deep soul searching. To a small extent, I have done this. Many times I have found that what I believe to be true is not. I would say that trying to find the essence of who I am and what I believe to be true is my version of meditation or religion. Having said that, I can say with certainty that there are probably dozens of issues that I have never thought about or run through my ideological filter.
Why do people do things? If you’re honest, you will have to say the answer is for self-betterment. Let me explain. When you start a business it is not to serve people, or provide a product, it is to provide yourself an income. Why are you nice to most of your coworkers? Because a positive work environment is more desirable to you than a hostile one. The basic nature of people is rooted in selfishness. This is not a negative thing. That is not the same as saying people are inherently bad. It just means that we have a survival instinct and generally try not to do things that are not in our own best interest. When we give to charity it makes us feel better, we go to church because we want to go to heaven. I believe people are basically good in part because of this selfishness. Human nature is based on the “me”.
Government is supposedly based on the “we”. How can a person stop being for “me”, and start being for “we”, just because they are elected to office? It is simply not possible. If you look at government from the “me” perspective, what is the main job of a politician? If you compare how much time an elected official spends fundraising vs. how much time they spend legislating, you will be forced to come to the conclusion that the primary job of an elected official is getting re-elected. How can welfare programs possibly be in the best interest of politicians? Aren’t those programs there to help people? The short answer is no. They do, however, create a nice little voting block of people who can’t in their own best interest vote for someone else. We have been fighting the “war on poverty” for 50 years and have spent about 22 trillion dollars just on welfare programs, not including Medicare or social security. That is a huge amount of money so they’re must be hardly any poverty at all in America right? Actually, it’s about the same as it was 50 years ago. But if not for this government program many minorities and women would be much worse off right? Actually, one of the consequences of the war on poverty is that young, black unemployment has skyrocketed.
If you look at the “me” motive, and think about it, it becomes pretty clear. If it is not clear, maybe this quote from President Lyndon Johnson will help, (he’s the one who started the “war on poverty”):
“These Negroes, they’re getting pretty uppity these days and that’s a problem for us since they’ve got something now they never had before, the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now we’ve got to do something about this, we’ve got to give them a little something, just enough to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference.”
I found several other quotes from President Johnson, each one more disgusting and racist than the last. I won’t print them here. You get the point. When an elected official claims to be doing something for the “middle class” or the “common man”, he is not. There is always an unstated, “me”, reason for everything they do. The best possible thing any elected official could do for the “middle class”, or the “poor”, is leave them alone. Everything from minimum wage laws to food stamps hurts poor people, but it does create a dependence on government which in turn makes dedicated voters. That, after all, is the point in the first place.
The government also regulates business. This is done for the safety of workers and people and the environment right? Well actually, no. Think about it from the “me” perspective for just a second. Were airbags in cars invented because of a government regulation? No. Were environmental regulations written to make the air cleaner? No. Almost all regulations are lobbied for by the very industries that they impact. Large retailers lobby for higher minimum wages, large auto manufacturers lobby for more safety regulation for cars, large energy corporations lobby for stricter environmental standards. They do this not to save the planet, or to save the lives of people who buy their products. They do this to make it harder for someone to start a new business that competes with theirs. “ME”. Government regulations cost about a trillion dollars a year in America. To be in compliance with regulations the average small business spends over $10,000 per employee. The more employees a business has, the less per employee they have to pay. This is no big deal for Wal-Mart or Google, but is a very big deal for a new guy with a great idea or product. Most of the time they have to sell that idea or product to a large company. The airbag and seatbelts were invented without the government telling them to. Forcing car makers to put them into their cars was no big deal for GM and Ford, but we will never know if a better car could have been made here in America because they couldn’t afford to comply with that regulation. Shouldn’t the consumer have the right to decide what safety features they want in their cars? As a father, I would certainly pick a vehicle with airbags on my own without my government telling me to. If I was a young guy more concerned with performance I might want a lighter car without the airbags.
The bottom line is that every decision made by an elected official is made with his or her best interest in mind. They get paid to fundraise so they can be paid to enact legislation that “helps” you. They get millions of dollars in “donations”, by large corporations to pass laws designed to make it hard for large corporations to exploit its workers. Ok. In other news, the tooth fairy is real. Remember this when you see a patriotic sounding bill that sounds like it’s helping a group of people like the “patriot act” or “equal pay for equal work amendment”. Every time our government passes a law designed to protect you, they are taking a little bit of your freedom away.