Posts Tagged ‘Government’


Our Current American Political Climate: Why is Government a Four-Letter Word?


Why do people imagine government workers are lazy, overpaid, and unproductive drains on society?  And what positions are people imagining to personify all government workers?

Based on my own notions, I figure most people are thinking about one of two people: postal service employees, and overstaffed, nondescript office personnel in DC.

But, how many Americans employed by the government fit into these roles?

Let’s crunch some numbers:

Number of postal workers587,768 (2009)

Number of federal financial administration* employees: 107,221 (2009)

Number of full-time federal employees: 2,518,101 (2009)

(I picked “financial administration” because that seemed generic enough for the sake of this humble blog, which doesn’t claim to be an expert on these matters, simply a rough estimate for the sake of argument.)

Whipping out my abacus, it looks like those who represent the average “government worker” in the mind’s eye of many Americans account for less than 28 percent of those employed by the government.

Not remotely close to being the majority, it’s hard to argue that these people should be the face of the amorphous being that is the government worker, an arguably pointless term anyway.  If you work for a private company, are you a private worker?  Are you a free market employee?  Does that even come remotely close to defining your job, your title, your business?  Of course not.  So, why should we lump all government workers under the gigantic umbrella that is called “government.”

The truth is that government workers are health care professionals, road workers, police officers, park rangers, librarians, lawyers, judges, correctional facility officers, FBI agents, scientists, teachers, and soldiers. Just to name a few.

Are teachers overpaid?  Are our troops?  Are our doctors lazy and unproductive?  How about our lawyers or librarians?

Absolutely there are individuals who are lazy, unproductive, and overpaid, just as there are in any industry, in any office, in any company.  But, to generalize all of the vastly different positions that fall within the realm of the government as such is simply unfocused anger and resentment without any depth of thought given to the argument.

And why so much animosity toward people who work for the government?  Especially during these times of economic woe, if the government is hiring and it means that people will be working rather than collecting unemployment during the recession, how is that bad?  And before you get all Ayn Rand on me, I get that it’s better for a free market to have more able bodies employed by the private sector, but it’s not as if simply working for the government means that you’re part of the government anymore than an average Wal-Mart employee should be blamed for the inequalities and questionable practices by Sam Walton’s progeny or the workers at Barnes and Noble should catch hell for the company not adjusting their business model to succeed in the 21st century.

When government has become a four-letter word in our current political times, it’s important to stop a minute and really think about what government means and how complex of an institution it is before making snap judgments about the people who call the state their boss.  It is valuable to be critical of governmental spending, but better to do so on a case-by-case basis rather than these broad generalizations that miss the reality of the situation.

America was founded on limited government, not no government at all.  And those who work for the state are Americans, too, trying to make ends meet, and possibly even performing tasks and duties that help you and our country as a whole.

Photo courtesy of ekonon’s Flickr Photostream.


GOP Not Interested in Governance, Only Politics


The Republican Party established itself as the “Party of No,” a unified front interested only in voting against whatever Obama and the Democrats proposed, regardless of the content of that legislation.  No to the Stimulus. No to SotomayorNo to Healthcare. No to Extending Unemployment Benefits.

And it continues.

Instead of bothering to announce anything productive for 2010, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) reiterates that nothing has changed for the Grand Old Party: repeal health care is their number one priority.  Now, I’m sure many a Republican could and would argue that repealing health care reform would be productive.  But that would mean that the status quo prior to March 21st – or their own ideas (Rep. Paul Ryan’s bill the only real document they’ve provided as an alternative) – is a step forward from the reform, not a step backward.

Boehner sounds like his background vocal track hit a snag and he’s stuck on repeat:

“I’ve never seen a bill pass the House of Representatives that the American people knew about, that the American people had discussed, debated, and had decided ‘no.'”


I suppose this will be the strategy until November.  If the GOP wins as many seats as they hope, then one could argue their strategy worked.  As far as winning seats in Congress goes.  And that’s just politics.  Not governance.  Which is all in which they’re interested anyway.


Wall Street Flip-Flops Allegiance Back to Republicans

Wall Street

In what was really no surprise at all, it was announced on Wednesday that the financial companies on Wall Street shifted their federal contributions from the Democrats early in 2009 to the Republicans by the year’s end.


Well, it’s pretty simple.  See, they usually favor the Republicans because they’re the ones who push for deregulation, which lets them do all that fun stuff they did for the last decade like fabricating their own impossible derivatives to line their pockets – which had a huge hand in causing our current deep recession that has forced tens of millions of Americans out of work.  When the bottom dropped out at the end of 2008 – the markets crashed, the mortgage industry collapsed, and the banks nearly went bankrupt – Obama was elected president and the financial industry flip-flopped. They started donating all kinds of contributions to the Democrats to help convince them to bail them out, which they did. 

But now that things are back to good for them – the rest of the country is still devastated and can’t get loans while average Wall Street workers get half-a-million dollar bonuses and look no worse for the wear – they’re once again throwing their support behind the Grand Old Party, hoping that they can get back to their old ways.

And the wheel goes round and round. 

This is why I fail to understand why people who are so quick to distrust government so easily lend their confidence and trust in corporations.  Both institutions are run by power-hungry people who are easily corrupted, as is usually the case with humans and power (see: any history book).  A balance where one checks the other seems to give us regular citizens – you know, the vast majority of the population – the best shot at not getting completely screwed by either entity.

I just don’t think our current political climate couldn’t handle that notion.

Image via Wikipedia
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Another Misleading Rasmussen Poll


According to the latest Rasmussen Poll, “75% Are Angry At Government’s Current Policies.”  Upon first glance, it implies that an overwhelming majority of Americans are angry at President Obama and Democrats.  It’s written just to rally the Republican base because simply stating that you’re angry with the current policies couldn’t be a more vague response to an even vaguer question.  It doesn’t tell us anything that really would be worthwhile to know: like, why one is angry with which policies.  Just like the disapproval ratings for the Health Care Bill are used to assume that because people aren’t happy with it, it means they don’t want reform, ignoring the fact that a lot of people dislike the reform because it doesn’t do enough.

This poll just offers a question of emotion – not policy – and shouldn’t be misconstrued as anything else.


Ft. Hood Tragedy Polarizes Nation Immediately


Major Nidal Hasan sure got both sides spewing their rhetoric.

One side uses the tragedy as an excuse to condemn all of Islam and its followers and to justify the wars in the Middle East.  The other side condemns those who condemn Islam.

As the picture becomes clearer about Hasan and his extremist views, those who were quick to blame Islam may have more of a leg to stand on than when the news first hit about the shootings at Ft. Hood.  It doesn’t by any means justify jumping to conclusions based on the Major’s Middle Eastern name and apparent religious affiliation, but it’s beginning to seem like what looked like a duck and quacked like a duck is, in fact, a duck.


One of the downsides of our world of instant news is that no one has the time to gather facts before presenting them in a way that fashions some sort of picture.  There is no illumination; just a few spare details and the rest is left to speculation until more facts help reveal the true image.  Unfortunately, by the time the true story comes to light, the blogosphere has already reached their conclusions and they’re just waiting for new details simply to enhance their preconceived notions.

It’s not just the blogosphere that overreacts, either.  Sen. Joe Lieberman sure has done enough of his own lately, seeking a Congressional investigation to consider the Ft. Hood shootings a terrorist act.  No formal charges have even been made yet and Lieberman wants Hasan declared a terrorist.

Sen. Lieberman:

It’s — first, this was a terrible tragedy. Second, it’s too early — it’s premature to reach conclusions about what motivated Hasan. But it’s clear that he was, one, under personal stress and, two, if the reports that we’re receiving of various statements he made, acts he took, are valid, he had turned to Islamist extremism.


And therefore, if that is true, the murder of these 13 people was a terrorist act and, in fact, it was the most destructive terrorist act to be committed on American soil since 9/11.

He admits that it’s too early to say, but then goes on anyway with his multitude of ifs leading to his statement meant merely to rile people up.  This is something to be expected from blowhard pundits like Limbaugh, Wallace, and Beck, but not a U.S. Senator.  Nothing good comes of this except for more marginalization, more hate, and more misguided anger.  Thank you, Mr. Lieberman.  Job well done.

Perhaps everyone should just hold off while evidence is gathered, witnesses interviewed, and even an interrogation of the accused before he’s condemned before a trial.  Remember, not only is Hasan an American citizen, he’s a Major in the Army.  It seems that the senator has jumped to conclusions, based either on the information currently available, or perhaps, more likely, due to the fact that Maj. Hasan is a Muslim and there’s a sense of blame associated with Muslims simply due to their chosen faith.  As if his being a Muslim automatically places him alongside Bin Laden and Mohammad Atta without so much as even receiving his Miranda rights.

More and more facts will rise to the surface as the days go by and the investigation continues.  Authorities say that they still don’t have a motive for the massacre, but regardless, there is no excuse.  It was an unconscionable act of violence that took 13 lives and changed countless more.  Perhaps we’ll find that this was part of some bigger plot.  Or maybe we’ll find that it was just a man who snapped and came undone in the worst way.

But like Sen. Lieberman said, it’s too early to tell.


You Fail, We All Fail


This is exactly the sort of thing we should expect from the Obama Administration.  He’s been preaching it since he started running for office: accountability.

And now he and Rep. Barney Frank plan to require that very culpability from the financial industry in a very unique way.  Essentially, if a firm gets too big for its britches and ends up on the edge of collapse – you know, like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, AIG, Lehman Brothers, etc. –  the government could intervene at the cost of the corporation’s competitors.  Not the taxpayers.

Think of it like when you were in school and you were put into groups to work on a project and everyone got the same grade.  You fail, we all fail.  It was sold to us as a way to have the stronger students help along the kids who weren’t grasping the material as well.  I know that I hated it because, as a good student, it just meant I had to work extra hard to pick up the slack to ensure I got a good grade.  But, it was worth it to me to do someone else’s work to be sure that I earned the marks I received.  I wasn’t going to let one slacker ruin it for the rest of us.  And, it was an invaluable lesson to learn: our actions affect those of others in our team.  And, in this case, in an odd way, all of the competing firms on Wall Street are on the same team: the team of running our economy.  If one of you cheats, you all pay the price.  Because if not, the game is over, the economy collapses.

I remember when I was in high school and my parents always warning me to be careful who I hung out with because even if I wasn’t doing drugs, I could get in trouble if I was with kids who were.  Guilty by association.  Funny how all of these life lessons we learn growing up just get tossed out the window when it comes to financial firms.

I hope the bill passes.  This is the kind of change that Obama was elected to do.


Why Is Spending a Four-Letter Word?



States are going through their budgets right now trying to cut costs and balance the numbers before their fiscal year starts on July 1st.  States like New York are looking to raise taxes on those who make over $500,000 while Iowa wants to cut taxes on the poor and middle classes.  Naturally these changes will only go through if the Democrats can carry enough votes in both legislatures.

Georgia is taking a different approach.  They cut education spending in order to lower its captial gains tax rate by half to 3%.  Capital gains are profits made from selling a non-inventory product at a price higher than the one at which it was purchased – essentially, stocks, bonds, and other similar investments.  Typically the poor have very few, if any, of these assets.  The poor do, however, tend to have children who need higher quality education than they are receiving.  While the conservatives piss and moan about Obama’s so-called socialism is taking away money from the rich to give to the poor, they fail to acknowledge how slashing education spending in order to cut taxes on those rich enough to send their children to the best private schools in the world is doing the same thing in the opposite direction.

Since when has robbing from the poor to give to the rich ever been solid governmental policy?  This is the reason why Democrats took over in the past two elections.  It turns out that majority of the American population aren’t in the top 2% of income earners after all.  Shocking, I know.  And conservative or liberal, some government spending can be good.  I will always champion more spending for education and the arts.  Nothing bad can come from keeping our youth competitive in the world arena and the best way to do that is to offer the best public education we can provide.

Not all spending is inherently bad.  We have a government for a reason.  This isn’t every man for himself.  It’s frustrating that of course when you spend money it has to come from somewhere and that tends to be the rich.  That’s just the price you pay for having the privilege of earning that kind of income within our society.  We are not each totally autonomous.

Warren Buffett, billionaire and market genius, says it best:

“If you’re in the luckiest 1 percent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 percent.”

Hear, hear.


This Is Not Socialism


While bored, I ended up jumping around friends’ Facebook walls and read posts from random people that I may or may not have ever met.  The Six Degrees of Facebook, essentially.  On one wall I found a post that read as follows:

yeah, i agree, i am not against Obama, but i disagree with the philosphy that the stimulus package and more government spending is the right solution. and i don’t think pelosi and reid did him any favors by locking out the republicans when they created the bill and then expected support for it. but it is what it is – moving towards national healthcare run by the government and nationalization of banks is socialism.

This person has every right to disagree with Obama’s politics.  But the final remark is incorrect.  A country can have social programs without being a socialist state.  No one was screaming socialism when Bush was in office, yet he was the one whose spending was completely out of control to the point where the administration claimed that deficits don’t matter.  We’ve also had social programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security for decades, yet again, the Republicans weren’t screaming socialism 6 months ago.  In fact, Bush spent a TON of money on Medicare just before he left office.  Finally, Bush was the one who started the whole “nationalization” of banks with the Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and AIG bailouts.  Again, no calls of socialism, yet these were all characteristics of socialist policy.

Obama does have a plan for health care reform and so did all of the other presidential candidates.  Only Clinton’s even came close to being universal coverage.  I am not sure that Obama’s plan of forcing employers to provide health care really is the answer at all, but I do know that it’s not national healthcare nor socialism.

I am not an economist.  I’m not even an political scientist by degree.  I have no idea what the best course of action is with regards to the banking system.  In my gut I would rather them fail than the Big Three.  I also would rather the president didn’t tell the GM CEO to step down – but that’s what happens when the government essentially owns part of the company.  I can see this being a dangerous state of affairs but I also don’t see it as socialism.  If you ask for the government’s help, then you should be held accountable to their stipulations.  If you don’t want the help, then let capitalism do its thing and GM would most likely be going through bankruptcy right now.  Which they still could be doing soon.  Either way, it wasn’t a hostile takeover by the government like what happened in Venezula.  Far from it.

Regardless of how it all turns out, we are not living under socialism, we are not heading toward socialism, and having social programs when you’re one of the wealthiest and strongest countries in the world is not socialism.  It’s part of what makes us one of the best nations on the planet.

(P.S. I don’t know the protocol for the content of a random Facebook wall posting.  I don’t want to credit the writer because I would like for him/her to remain anonymous.  It’s nothing personal and if he/she so chooses to want credit for said quote, I’ll be happy to attribute accordingly.)

I’m 17 and I Can (Finally) Get Plan B


Another Bush fallacy gets righted.

I didn’t realize how long the fight had been going on with getting Plan B – also known as the morning-after pill – approved for being an over-the-counter medicine.  I guess trying to get something logical pushed through the bureaucracy of Bush’s Administration would take both him leaving office and nearly a decade’s worth of fighting.

Still, the FDA’s Advisory Committee voted 23 to 4 in 2003 to approve Plan B for over-the-counter status without age restrictions. Yet the Plan B request of the only one of nearly two dozen applications to move a prescription drug to over-the-counter status that was not approved after the committee recommended it.

The judge said top FDA officials at a meeting in late 2003 or early 2004 told their subordinates that over-the-counter status for Plan B would not be approved at that time and that it was a decision that would be made at a higher level in the FDA than those decisions are usually made.

Isn’t that committee set up with experts who could reasonably decide the fate of any strength of medicine?  Why would this particular medicine need a level of approval higher than normal?

Oh wait.  This is why.

“Moreover, they were told that the White House had been involved in the decision on Plan B,” he said.

Like so many other things, Bush overrided the FDA committee in order to push through his own far-right, socially-religious, political agenda.  Who needs branches of government and checks and balances when you already know what’s best for the country?

Thankfully, someone realized the absurdity of all of this.

As of today, thanks to a federal judge, 17 year old girls can now purchase the Plan B pill over the counter without a prescription.  Naturally, the opposition cries out that this is just another form of abortion.  Chris Gasek, a regulation expert with the conservative Family Research Council, went even further to suggest that “[t]here is a real danger that Plan B may be given to women, especially sexually abused women and minors, under coercion or without their consent.”

Wouldn’t the real danger then be the sociopaths who coerce and sexually abuse the young women, not a pill designed to help limit the number of abortions?  Maybe the Family Research Council should focus on preventing such heinous acts instead of wasting their time with this pompous and futile refutal aimed at simply riling up the religious right with rhetoric instead of actually helping anyone or accomplishing anything.


Faith-Based and Government? Of course!


I lied in my previous post.  I had to make a quick remark on this article.

President Obama will be revamping President Bush’s Office of Faith-Based Initiatives.  I still am having trouble figuring out just why our federal government needs any such office, no matter how revamped it gets.

President Obama said that the office:

“[will not] favor one religious group over another — or even religious groups over secular groups. It will simply be to work on behalf of those organizations that want to work on behalf of our communities, and to do so without blurring the line that our founders wisely drew between church and state.”

So, basically it’s an office that helps provide social services to those in need, such as international HIV/AIDS efforts, job training to low-income workers, and helping released convicts get back into society.  That I can get behind.

And now that Obama is making sure that people aren’t discriminated against based on their religious background during hiring, it seems that the only thing faith-based about the office is the name.

Well done.  Another Bush blunder effectively reversed.