Sunday, August 7, 2011

Our Govt Takes Us For Granted Far Too Often

I was disturbed, though not surprised, to read a piece in today's Kansas City Star:  "We take our government for granted far too often".  In it Richard Sumpter, an employee of the Environment Protection Agency and adjunct professor at Baker University, takes another reader (and all of the rest of us by extension) to task for not properly appreciating what our government does for us.  The reader in question (correctly) maintained that government erodes self-reliance.  Mr Sumpter quickly decides that at least in his case, self-reliance is an illusion.   Really! 

Conceding for the sake of argument, that the National Bureau of Standards, the EPA, the USDA, and the FCC have some value to citizens (something that I do in the case of the FCC only grudgingly); it does not naturally or necessarily follow that government agencies need to exist as they are today, or that their increasing encroachment on personal freedom is an inherent good.  Neither does it abrogate citizens from their burden of personal responsibility and self-reliance.

If the National Bureau of Standards didn't exist to establish and standardize time zones, would not some private sector organization spring up as it did in the case of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN); which performs a similar function for domain names and numbers for websites?  While the EPA (Mr Sumpter's employer) does provide us some protection from dangerous substances, does it not often overstep its bounds in attempting to regulate naturally produced substances like carbon dioxide and methane?  Did USDA regulations protect us from the recent salmonella outbreak from ground turkey; and did Cargill recall the potentially tainted meat under threat from the Dept of Agriculture and the USDA, or from the impending threat of litigation if it didn't?  Does the FCC's continuing efforts at regulation and control of the Internet, radio talk shows (The Fairness Doctrine) or broadcast standards which allow almost limitless violence on television while imposing fines on accidental nudity (Janet Jackson @ the Super Bowl) constitute protection or arbitrary standards.  Most importantly, what does any of this have to do with self-reliance?

Mr Sumpter fails to address the areas of government that in fact have some impact on the fundamental issue on self-reliance that he establishes.  But perhaps he simply finds it inconvenient to discuss how the 'safety net' of Social Security has now become a national pension plan for those not planning for their own future.  Maybe the annoying fact that Medicare and Medicaid have all but destroyed free-market principles in medical care, driving costs up and forcing many to rely on them has escaped his subservient vision.  It's possible that he finds the taxation that fund Welfare, Food Stamps, Subsidized Housing, Utility Bill Support, and Free Cell Phones are not troubling programs creating a dependent class in this country.  We'll never know however, since none of the government attacks on the self-reliance he claims is an illusion are addressed in the sonnet he pens to his employers in Washington.     

Interestingly enough, in a column in the same edition of the Star, E. Thomas McClanahan recognizes the potential issue of government redistribution becoming dependency bordering on addiction by pointing out that, "The U.S. government has become a giant check writing machine, with two-thirds of the federal budget given over to to payments to individuals - "  He goes on to say that, "Last year, government payments made up more than 18 percent of American's personal income, a record."  

No Mr Sumpter, the paved streets and traffic cops you applaud are bought and paid for through taxes, not provided at the largess of the government you want us to give up self-reliance to. So too for clean water and sewers, something for which you, like many others across the country, will be paying increasingly more for in the days ahead.  

Even those of us who continue to 'rage against the machine' recognize the necessity for some government; a strictly limited one based on the protections afforded in the Constitution.  What we vociferously object to however, is the expansion of 'nanny state' policies and agencies full of unelected bureaucrats that continue to attack the basic freedoms and even more basic responsibilities that this country was founded on.  The personal responsibility and self-reliance you say are an illusion are in fact a necessity in any nation that hopes to remain free; far more important that the government-provided conveniences that you believe we take for granted and would like us to applaud.  

I will not suggest ulterior motives to Mr Sumpter's effort, which seems to have been done in good faith.  I will say however that pointing out in the spirit of full disclosure at the end of the piece who his employer is does not negate the potential conflict of interest of a government employee trying to celebrate that institution; and in so doing, protect his own rice bowl.  We can applaud his loyalty without commending his willingness to bow to the increasing theft of personal responsibility by his ultimate employer.  Neither do we need to agree in any way with his invalidation of the self-reliance on which this country was founded.  No Mr Sumpter, your basic premise is not only flawed, it's just plain wrong.  It is our government who takes us for granted far too often.

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