There are many Americans who lack a basic understanding of what government is except to complain it is an organization exerting control over the population, but obviously it is much more than a source of power over the people. Government is necessary to enforce policy and provide services that positively affect nearly every human activity in important ways despite conservative’s belief it is inherently evil and worthy of elimination. Over the past four-and-a-half years, Republicans have actively campaigned on, and promoted, an anti-government agenda regardless the myriad benefits to the entire population, and their goal in eliminating government is to eliminate as many of the benefits and services to the majority of people as they can. However, some Republicans who decry the federal government as too big, too expensive, and too overreaching are the first in line for federal funding if it is politically expedient, and besides hypocrisy, it shows the necessity of the government they are wont to eliminate.
Last week President Obama told graduates at Ohio State University that “You’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems. You should reject these voices” and went on to say, “a government that works properly can be best-equipped to help and protect the public,” but unfortunately for many Americans, Republicans steeped in conservative ideology disagree. Republicans claim President Obama epitomizes overreaching, out of control, and over-funded government citing the Affordable Care Act, stimulus spending, automobile industry bailout, and attempts to expand education and healthcare as prime examples of bloated government, and yet government spending is at its lowest in 60 years. Some Republicans even decried giving natural disaster relief to storm-ravaged states as another example of wasteful spending only to embrace the President when their states were struck by natural weather-related disasters. Those governors who reject federal funding as wasteful for programs like expanded Medicaid and the stimulus adhere to a selfish sentiment that when their states are affected, federal funding is good if it is “only in my backyard, not anyone else’s.”
There are some things that only the federal government can accomplish and disaster relief is just one example. Republicans have latched on to the libertarian philosophy that the only good government is no government and that the individual is responsible to take care of themselves. However, they fail to recognize that the Interstate highway system, military, intelligence community, law enforcement, fire protection, border security, and air traffic control are best administered and funded by the federal government because the scope of such programs exceed what an individual or state can ever achieve. Still, a Republican strategist claimed that conservatives in the Republican party “are not arguing for a government of zero, it’s arguing for a government that acts responsibly and makes decisions about priorities” that are typically aid to the rich, and made a ridiculously erroneous contrast to Democrats he claims “want to just increase everything” in spite of the lowest spending in decades and a leaner government than any Republican over the past 50 years. Some Republicans, though, are having second thoughts on their entire “no government is good government” sentiment and rifts are forming between Republicans within the same states.
In four states with Republican governors who embraced Medicaid expansion, the Republican-controlled legislatures are holding fast to rejecting expansion based on purely conservative ideology that any federal funding is inherently bad. In Ohio, for example, Governor Kasich said that because of his Christian principles, he “can’t look at the disabled, I can’t look at the poor, I can’t look at the mentally ill, I can’t look at the addicted and think we ought to ignore them,” and whether he sincerely cares about his low-income constituents, or sees the economic value and expediency in expanding Medicaid, his fellow Republicans who control both the House and Senate are suspicious of expanding a federal program. In Arizona, Governor Jan Brewer, no friend of the President, is pushing Medicaid expansion for 300,000 low-income residents she called “a fiscally prudent move that would return economic dividends for Arizona,” and yet she is finding stiff resistance from Republicans in the House who promised that “we will continue to fight tooth and nail as far as we can.”
The majority leader in the Arizona House and recipient of Koch’s Americans for Prosperity donations, state Rep. David Gowan, reflects the viewpoint of Republicans who believe the best government is no government and said opposing healthcare for the poor is “an ideological principle piece to us. It’s within the process of mandating health care. We don’t believe it’s the government’s duty to do that. It should be open for people to go get their health care.” The absurd notion that expanding Medicaid is government mandating healthcare aside, Gowan is parroting a Koch-libertarian mindset that citizens who are unable to provide for themselves, for whatever reason, are undeserving of basic human necessities. It is the same mindset the Koch brothers pay Republicans like Paul Ryan to espouse, and drives Republicans in Congress to reject the President’s request for funding for roads and bridges, schools, hospitals, disaster relief, and weather forecasting that have been met with claims that America is broke; except to fund subsidies for agriculture, oil industry, and corporate tax entitlements. Conservatives do not hate government spending, they just hate spending that benefits the people unless it is politically expedient to boost their popularity with constituents.
It is irrelevant why some Republicans are willing to buck their conservative legislatures and Congressional Republican attempts to deny federal dollars or oppose providing healthcare to the poor even if it is for political expediency. The important thing is that those most in need may finally get relief from what some pundits are calling “pragmatic Republicans” who can no longer sit back and withhold humanitarian aid to their constituents. Regardless if they concede government is necessary for political benefits or to boost their state’s economies, at least millions of low-income Americans and disaster victims are getting the help they need.
Republicans are going to have to concede their philosophy that no government is good government is detrimental to this nation and its people, and recognize President Obama is right that “government that works properly can be best-equipped to help and protect the public.” The public, and individual states, are ill-equipped to face the challenges of millions of uninsured Americans, repairing decrepit roads and bridges, or provide massive relief operations when natural disasters strike. Doubtless libertarians and small-government Republicans will be first in line for disaster relief after the devastation in Oklahoma over the past week as much as Chris Christie was after his state was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy last October. Republicans can hardly have it both ways and still legitimately claim their minimalist government policy is good for America or its people when they openly depend on so-called “big government” to step in and provide relief regardless it is for natural disasters or healthcare for the needy.
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