Friday, March 25, 2011

Response to a Reader

I had a response to this post that I thought I should respond to. The commenter wrote:

At the risk of drawing a lot of ire - why does it need to be the government that does something? We don't need government control in every aspect of our lives - and once we invite it in, it's too hard to get rid of if it doesn't work. Parents need to take back control of teaching their children how to make good choices - and they need to band together on a local level to have their schools remove or limit the soda machines, etc. Start forcing the local school boards to take action by being a vocal parent.

This isn't an unusual response. I've gotten this "the government shouldn't get involved" mantra before. What I found curious about it was that while the commentator first says "government stay out, let parents be in charge," she then ADVOCATES GOVERNMENT INVOLVEMENT in the form of removing soda machines, etc. from schools.

It always mystifies me when people are completely unaware of what government involvement means. I'm always baffled by the people who scream whenever there's a pot-hole in the road, but then go to rallies saying they've against taxes.


This is reality, our current rates of low taxation are COMPLETELY UNSUSTAINABLE. There is absolutely NO WAY to continue them without dramatic cuts to just about every single public service we hold dear.

The point of yesterday's post advocating that Congress do something about child-hood obesity, was that the majority of people now want government action. Government would not be "controlling" our lives, but controlling the manufacturers making profits off of making our kids fat. And, that's the rub, by "controlling" these manufacturers, it's likely that they'll make less money.

That did not use to be a problem when it came to our government protecting us. Now it is. Now, when corporations stand to make less profits, we the public lose.

But still, I get this "we don't want the government controlling us" argument.
Ok, here's reality--Government taking intervention has saved countless lives in this country.

Do you think the government shouldn't have gotten involved after the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire? Wasn't government intervention there, in the form of work-place safety regulations better? Or do you really believe that government shouldn't have stepped in and regulated manufacturers and let people continue to die?

I mean, if you read about Triangle you hear echos of today. Here's what one writer had to say about it:

Aided by Frances Perkins, a young social worker who was in Washington Square looking on in horror as the seamstresses jumped to their deaths, Smith and Wagner visited hundreds of factories and sweatshops. Over time, they authored and enacted legislation that required certain workplaces to have sprinklers, open doors, fireproof stairwells and functioning fire escapes; limited women’s workweeks to 54 hours and banned children under 18 from certain hazardous jobs. (Years later, Wagner, by then a U.S. senator, authored — with help from Perkins, who had become labor secretary — the legislation establishing Social Security; he also wrote the bill legalizing collective bargaining.)

Businesses reacted as if the revolution had arrived. The changes to the fire code, said a spokesman for the Associated Industries of New York, would lead to “the wiping out of industry in this state.” The regulations, wrote George Olvany, special counsel to the Real Estate Board of New York City, would force expenditures on precautions that were “absolutely needless and useless.”

“The best government is the least possible government,” said Laurence McGuire, president of the Real Estate Board. “To my mind, this [the post-Triangle regulations] is all wrong.”

Such complaints, of course, are with us still. We hear them from mine operators after fatal explosions, from bankers after they’ve crashed the economy, from energy moguls after their rig explodes or their plant starts leaking radiation. We hear them from politicians who take their money. We hear them from Republican members of Congress and from some Democrats, too. A century after Triangle, greed encased in libertarianism remains a fixture of — and danger to — American life.

How about food safety rules? Do you have any idea how many Americans died from unsanitary food prior to those rules being put in place?

Huge corporations and billionaires have spent billions of dollars to convince the public that any kind government regulation of business is "bad." If government was really so "bad" then, why would these people have to spend so much to buy our thoughts and politicians? Wouldn't we just all gravitate to that view?

The truth is, that governments have always existed for one reason--to protect their citizens. If the king didn't effectively do it he eventually got thrown out, and as events in the Middle East show, even violent dictators have to eventually pay the price for not safeguarding their citizenship.

Right now our government isn't doing a very good job of protecting us because the people its supposed to have protected us against, bought it and managed to buy enough of the media to convince the very people who are getting screwed by the lack of government control, that lack of government control is what they want.