Anti-Government Ideology and Hypocrisy Undermines the Common Good

EJ Dionne writes:

Our core problem is a dogmatic antigovernment attitude…that arose in the 1970s and ’80s. This makes it impossible for us to have a constructive debate about what government is for, what tasks it should take on and what good it actually does.

In truth, the whole antigovernment thing is fundamentally fraudulent. So is the conservative claim to believe passionately in states’ rights and local authority.

In practice, conservatives regularly vote for lots of government — so long as it serves the interests they represent. Start with farm subsidies, massive defense spending, regulations that disempower unions and measures that sharply tilt the tax code in favor of corporate interests and the wealthy.

As for the power of states and localities, conservatives regularly propose federal action to override state governments that issue safety and environmental regulations that business regards as too robust. Somehow, they think we need national “consistency” on these matters but not on, say, voting rights. And right-wing state legislatures regularly preempt laws passed by more liberal local governments…

The shutdown reminds us that government is not the problem but the solution, or at least part of it, when it comes to many aspects of our common life.

We can see the damage done to the air transportation system, bureaus that gather useful economic statistics, the Internal Revenue Service, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Add in the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, the Forest Service and the Weather Service. And this is a very partial list…

Dick Armey, the Republican House majority leader during the Clinton-era shutdown, was as candid as anyone in revealing the hidden radicalism that serves as a straitjacket on our politics.

“Beneath our New Deals and New Frontiers and Great Societies,” Armey wrote in a book published in 1995, “you will find, with only a difference in power and nerve, the same sort of person who gave the world its Five Year Plans and Great Leaps Forward — the Soviet and Chinese counterparts.”

Sorry, but no. FDR, JFK and LBJ were not Stalin or Mao, nowhere close. Only by examining the anti-government view in its unabashed form can we understand why our two parties can’t be seen as equivalent and why rational negotiations are so difficult.