The ‘Government Is The Problem’ Conflict Of Interest

Tough Times? Tough Shit: The Republican philosophy - photo by David Shankbone

One simple line by Ronald Reagan did a lot of damage to our political process and in turn government’s ability to work:

government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem

Reagan was obviously capitalizing on a growing negative view of government by the public in the aftermath of Watergate and Vietnam combined with a bad economy and an increasing sense that the country was heading in the wrong direction. Little did anybody know then how profound that line would become within our political process. It has become gospel for the Republican Party and they have successfully marketed this idea to the public to the point where it’s now necessary for the Left to make the case for why government can work. This is a core theme of The Left Call. There was a time in this country when people believed government could do great things. In fact it wasn’t all that long ago, but unfortunately Republicans took advantage of a weak point in our history when faith in government was fractured. They seized the moment with the election of a likable and charismatic Ronald Reagan. The ability of government to work effectively and be a source of good for society has been under siege ever since.

If it’s your firm belief that government is the problem – and you hold a position of power within the government – does that mean it’s in your best interest to make sure government continues to be a problem? That might be a cynical way of interpreting the agenda of those who firmly believe government does more harm than good but I can’t help but think there is a genuine conflict of interest.

Democrats and liberals believe government exists so that we can collectively help people’s lives, particularly those less fortunate in society. With that in mind, which party is more negatively affected by a 9% approval rating for congress? Republicans obstruct to the point where nothing gets done and it helps to serve their greater agenda of reducing the size of government. If Republicans can turn public opinion against government they will find less resistance to the idea of less government. They hope that leads to less resistance to cutting popular programs like Medicare and Social Security.

Republicans want you to believe government only gets in the way and is trampling on your freedoms. A lot of people go along with this idea as long as everything is going well for them. But when life intrudes and they find themselves on hard times, most would hope there is some safety net that will be there to aid until they can get back on their feet. It turns out government is only a problem when it’s helping somebody else. It’s easy to say government is the problem until you are in a place where you have nowhere else to turn. For example, older conservatives and Republicans who believe they deserve Medicare and Social Security because they’ve paid into these programs all their life yet show far less concern for younger generations having the same access to these programs. How can I make that statement? Well, if they vote for small government Republicans like Paul Ryan – who would do away with or severely limit these programs if given the chance – how else should it be interpreted?

If you want a more civil, kind and just society you will worry less about the entitlements of others compared to your own entitlements and you will stop trying to tear down safety nets that you believe only exist for others.


photo by David Shankbone via Flickr


#conflict of interest#conservative#government is the problem#medicare#Paul Ryan#Republican#Ronald Reagan#safety net#small government#social security