One of the problems of candidate selection in American politics is that so many potential voters believe there is only one "big dog" on the block to worry about: an over-reaching and big-spending government. Yet many of these same people support the largest public-private defense establishment in the world and many more take ready advantage of the benefits that past government projects offer, such as safe highways or transfer payments to keep the elderly out of poverty, or grants and loans for public institutions of higher education and vocational training for those who can't afford private universities.
A conundrum, eh?
It's true in a sense that government doesn't "create" jobs because in a participatory system government can't exist without the support of at some some measure of the body politic.
But consider that from earliest days of the American republic, from the Erie Canal Project in the1820's that united the Great Lakes Region with the seaboard metropolis of New York, to the transcontinental telegraph system in 1861 that first united the nation from coast to coast on the eve of the Civil War, to the US Army oversight of the Panama Canal construction starting in 1906, to the build up of hydroelectric power projects during the New Deal in the 1930s that made it possible for ordinary people in the Deep South to have rural electrification and made the Pacific Northwest a major center for economic expansion thank to the Bonneville Dam and other projects, government has taken the helm.
Want more? How about the NASA space program of the 1950's-60's thru today that contributed a great deal to the computer and technology industry we take for granted, the ongoing Interstate Highway System, (started under the Republican Pressident Democrat Dwight D. Eishower) that makes it possible for trucking commerce to flow unimpeded from all over the lower 48 states, all these projects came through government sponsorship and coordination.
More recently, it was "big government" under Barack Obama that provided support for General Motors and Chrysler when they needed help to keep the American auto industry viable. It was derided as a boondoggle by some. But it successfully saved an industry and now thousands of people in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana aren't filling out job apps for minimum-wage positions at Wal-Mart or the local delis and coffee bars because they have better paying jobs in the manufacturing and supply industry.
Yet, despite all these programs, segments of the conservative American political character have made a fetish of "big gov'ment", as the late Texas progressive Molly Ivins put it. Millions of Americans and several Presidential candidates can't seem to differentiate between a government boondoggle project--like a "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska, say, or a defense program to build a war plane even the Air Force doesn't want because it will create jobs in a few Congressional districts (or even the odd disastrous "war of choice" that costs hundreds of billions) --to a necessary government project like keeping up our interstate highway system, providing public services in cases of economic or natural disaster, or expanding passenger railways in this nation to boost energy savings.
A case in point can be found in Andrew Rosenthal's brief blog below.
"The candidates want to steer the conversation to the abstract idea of excess government, because they cannot acknowledge that government continues to play a concrete role in the daily lives of most citizens. When the Republican candidates pledge to slash federal spending by trillions of dollars, as all have done, they never bother to mention that a huge portion of that reduced spending would have been transferred to states and cities for projects voters actually care about."
Hence the problem with the "big government" argument in my view; you have to be careful and precise when you determine what public spending can be cut, and what price people will pay for the loss of needed expenditures.
See link for full article:
In other words it's not a win-win game, knee-jerk conservatives like the born-again Reagan-naut Mitt Romney would have us believe. If you want low taxes, fine. But what do you do when you're driving on roads covered with potholes, or all the other developed nations in the world have comprehensive health care program while United States citizens pay more out for pocket for the same or worse overall results in disease control, medical care and life expectancy?
To see America continue to invest in its own public infrastructure and economic progress (and we need to if we are going to keep up with the emerging economic powers from northern Europe to Brazil to East Asia) we are going to have to do some nation-building right here for the general health and safety of our own nation.
Yes, we need to keep an eye on the big dog on the block. But not lose sight of the full condition the neighborhood is in.