One of the most memorable phrases gleaned from the satirical comic strip Pogo was, “We have met the enemy and the enemy is us.” Unfortunately, today it seems too many Americans have taken the saying too seriously. From clips on TV and statements of leadership, particularly from the Tea Party group, it seems some Americans view our national government as a foreign power that somehow has invaded us. Those who incessantly attack our national government do major damage to our system.
Only a short history lesson can demonstrate why our government contains greater benefits than pitfalls and greater opportunities than drawbacks to those of us with American citizenship. Our federal government has been the major catalyst in the greatest surges of prosperity in America.
As we emerged from the first Great Depression of 1929, the government put together the jobs program that included the Civil Conservation Corps. Many of us still wonder at the magnitude and beauty of the national parks throughout the United States. Many of those parks were built using CCC labor while providing jobs that enabled many families in America to survive the rigors of the Great Depression.
In all probability, one of the greatest advancements for the middle class and America as a whole was the GI Bill. Fashioned as we emerged from the Great War, Americans invested at a time when our national debt was at an all-time high. We invested in educating those who had served us and given of their time in the Great War. While it benefited veterans, it benefited America far more. It is a prime example of how government investment in a time of need can move us forward as it did in this instance. It moved us forward in education, innovation, investment, entrepreneurship and prosperity. America has enjoyed no greater surge forward than we did at the time we invested in making higher education affordable for a huge segment of our society — not just the rich and privileged.
The next great gigantic investment in America that holds us in great stead today, without which we would be one of the poorest nations on earth, is the interstate highway system. Proposed and pushed by Gen. Dwight Eisenhower during his presidency, we invested billions in creating a transportation system that assured the future of much of our commerce. It also is an example of how government can, in fact, be the stimulus to create jobs. What advocate of making America’s national government insignificant would look back and wish for insignificance in our government’s role in creating the interstate highway system that serves us so well today.Unfortunately, the anti-science, know-nothing, do-nothing conservatives in America considered our president’s aim of putting a man on the moon to simply be a pipe dream. The vision of John Kennedy and the space program, underwritten by our government, has resulted in more inventions that serve us in the form of business opportunities, human comfort and entertainment.
The plethora of patents and scientific advancements directly attributable to the quest to put a man on the moon is unmatched in any nation’s history. Advances in medicine, communication, technology and on and on would not have been possible without our government’s investment. Unfortunately, if some of the naysayers in politics today had been in control at that time, they would have opted for a greater balanced budget and lower taxes instead of our quest to explore space.
Gov. Rick Perry, who belittles the effort of government to create jobs, conveniently overlooks the fact that a significant portion of the job growth in Texas upon which he bases his quest to lead our nation was fueled by government jobs.
Never in the history of our country has there been a greater need for America to do what is necessary to make an investment — yes, even with borrowed money — in our crumbling infrastructure, such as buildings, bridges, highways and public schools. We also desperately need to invest in giving the next generation access to a reasonably priced higher education, training them for the kinds of jobs which will make America competitive and return manufacturing back to the United States instead of India and China. At a time when we have gone from No. 1 in the training of needed skills to No. 16 in the world, it is absolutely the wrong time to heed the “no tax at any price” voices. It is the time to invest in order to lift ourselves by our bootstraps out of the doldrums of an economy devastated by two wars on credit and an insane desire to have wealth prevail over the needs of ordinary citizens.