It all gets down to whether you think there are times when our government must take action to stimulate growth, provide a ladder of opportunity, and establish fair rules. Conservatives do not approve of government–except in its military and law enforcement role. Progressives believe markets do not necessarily guarantee opportunity or fairness and that, in periods of downturn, our government can and must take steps to provide a safety net and a hand up.
No conservative is willing to deny the effectiveness of the post-World War II G.I.Bill, the national highway system, the inventions from national laboratories, or a wide array of other public programs that have transformed our society. Very few still want to abolish Social Security or Medicare. If you add all government operations that a large majority, including most conservatives, agree on, it seems that “big government” may be code words for helping the poor. Conservatives want to cut taxes, especially for the wealthy, but they have still not provided a list of specific programs they wish to abolish. That is because they would almost all be public assistance to the poorest in society and they would not, added together, lead even close to a balanced budget.
So, we must continue to hear, and surely will during this election, rhetorical attacks on “big government”, “wasteful spending”, and “tax and spend” without any specificity. And it must constantly be repeated that the President and every member of Congress are elected by a majority of people in our nation and a majority of voters in respective districts and States. We, the people, elect our government. And, it must be pointed out again, the size of the national government does not decrease under conservative administrations.
Because there will be no conservative description of what government services they wish to abolish, we will instead witness continued personal attacks on President Obama as a “socialist”, a “Muslim”, and an alien sent from outer space to destroy America. We are all familiar with these tactics from grade school playgrounds.
So, the quarrel of conservatives is not with “big government”, which they themselves participate in electing and which is the product of majority will. It is with their fellow citizens who refuse to accept their basic belief that we can somehow flourish with a government composed primarily of the Department of Defense and the FBI. It is said we get the kind of government we deserve. It could better be said that we, a majority of Americans, get the kind of government we want.