Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bigger America? Great!
Bigger U.S.? Not So Fast!

America’s lust for largeness has long appalled and amused the other 95 percent of the world. We’re the land where bigger and better are synonymous. Where a “monster” is not an evil ogre but a food portion. Where fat people in phat clothes need trucks to haul their bloated carcasses between their MacMansions and the Mall sprawl.
We’re the nation that needs to graze everywhere on earth because our appetites have long since outgrown our ample home pastures. We’re the folks who turned The Star Spangled Banner into a multinational anthem. We the ones who made our elections into a multi-billion dollar business where cash flow crowds out civics. We rate movies by box office take and the Superbowl by the price of its commercial spots. We await the quarterly accretions of corporate growth like expectant parents.
They say our economic problem is that we’re not growing fast enough. Imagine, we’re still too small! Maybe devouring Pakistan will help us bulk up.
Then again, the pundits tell us we live in an exceptional land. The exception, of course, is the government--the only institution in all of America that people say is too big rather than not big enough. How the hell did that ever happen?
In fact, our government is smaller than those of first world countries. When we say it’s too big, that’s in relation to the little it does for us. It’s like a Hummer that can’t go faster than 40 mph but guzzles gas anyway.
In those countries with bigger governments, taxes cover health care, education through college, decent pensions, paid vacations, efficient public transportation, etc. Our smaller government spends much of our money on expanding an empire, making war, and seeing to it that the comfortably off are rarely discomfited. But those are areas that advocates of a reduced regime believe should be bigger. Happily, that’s not as true as it once was. Libertarian conservatives, whose ideas seem to catching on among some righties, are solidly anti-imperialist. On that subject, Ron Paul and Noam Chomsky are as close as clams.
The smaller state scam is really an effort to reduce or eliminate the parts of government that serve the needs of ordinary Americans. In particular, to privatize Social Security and Medicare, the last two big government programs whose main beneficiaries are not the military or the wealthy but you and me.
Listen to the constant cry that they’re running out of money. Does anyone worry that the Pentagon will go belly up? That they’ll be no bucks to pay for $600 a gallon gasoline in Afghanistan. Or that the Dept of Energy will no longer be able to dish out billions in giveaways to big oil?
The fact is SS can be made solvent for decades to come by way of a small tax hike. Medicare is in truth a god awful mess. A cash cow for crooked providers, it will take an army of Savonarolas to clean it up.
These are useful things to keep in mind as the campaign mounts to make the government smaller by making us poorer.