I [Heart] Government

By Begala, Paul | Newsweek, September 19, 2011 | Go to article overview

I [Heart] Government


Begala, Paul, Newsweek


Byline: Paul Begala

With everyone from Rick Perry to Barack Obama bashing Big Gummint, the time has come to defend it.

Wildfires have consumed 3.6 million acres in my home state of Texas since December 2010. That's about the size of the entire state of Connecticut. At least 700 homes have been destroyed, and four people have been killed. Of the 10 largest wildfires in Texas history, six have occurred this year. Think about that.

Now think about this: Texas governor and GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry has cut funding for volunteer firefighters, who are the first responders to 90 percent of all wildfires in Texas, by 75 percent.

Conservatives talk about government as if it were something foreign, alien, or extrinsic when in fact the Constitution says it truthfully and simply: "We the People." Government is us. It's capable of true greatness, real nobility, and majestic triumphs. I'd go further: the U.S. federal government is the greatest force for good in human history. Period.

The federal government freed the slaves and defeated Hitler. It built the interstate highway system, won the Cold War, integrated the South, put men on the moon, and killed Osama bin Laden. By the way, it also created the Internet, with Al Gore's leadership. So there.

And yet the demonization of government persists. Sure, when the fires rage, Perry praises "the brave men and women who put themselves in harm's way to protect Texans' lives and property." But even as the wildfires burned he hotfooted it to the Reagan Library on Sept. 7 for some good old-fashioned bashing of Big Gummint.

Even President Obama sometimes adopts the antigovernment premise, like when he killed his own administration's air-quality standards. As if cleaner air, less asthma, and lower cancer rates would cause massive layoffs. But he got it right in his Sept. 8 speech to Congress, pummeling the notion that "the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is ... dismantle government, refund everyone's money, let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they're on their own--that's not who we are. …

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