We’re # 1: The GOP Boasts About American Greatness While They Degrade It

This article appeared this past weekend in the Northern Virginia Daily and, in a shorter version, in Staunton’s Virginia News Leader.

What are we to believe about the size of government and the level of government spending?

Republicans say that the U.S. government has become way too big and that Americans are grossly overtaxed. Is that true?

In the United States, the rate of taxation is lower, and the size of government in relation to the size of the economy is smaller, than in just about every other nation like ours—rich, free, capitalistic, democratic societies.

Our peers around the world have decided that the best balance between the things that can be bought by people separately in the market and the things we have to buy together through tax dollars means having a government as big as ours, or bigger. So if Republicans are right, and government and taxation are too big, then not only are Americans foolish — every other society like ours is foolish.

In the Declaration of Independence, our Founders called for “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind.” And dismissing as foolish the judgment of dozens of advanced societies like ours hardly seems in keeping with that “decent respect.”

The attempt to discredit government and reduce its size may serve some interests but not the people. For example, government is the only entity strong enough to serve as a check on the huge agglomerations of private power in our big corporations.

The issue shouldn’t be the size of government but how wisely and justly we use it.

When Republicans call for cuts in spending, they take the position that we need to cut back on social programs and, indeed, on virtually every aspect of non-defense discretionary spending. But they strongly oppose cuts to defense spending. Is this the way to make America the best that it can be?

Republicans have in recent years encouraged the habit of boasting about our country, “We’re number 1.” And when it comes to defense spending, we are indeed far and away number 1. The United States spends almost as much on defense as the rest of the nations of the world combined. And most of the other large defense budgets are in countries that are our allies, not our enemies.

Is military spending the part of the budget where more spending will do most to help this nation fulfill its potential?

We’re also number 1 of all the nations on earth in how many of our people are in prison, number 1 among the 20 major advanced nations in the rate of infant mortality; in income inequality; in the proportion of our people, especially our children, who live in poverty; in how much we spend per person on health care, while also having the most people who go without health care because of cost.

Shouldn’t these be the kinds of areas where we invest?

Among advanced nations, we have the highest homicide rate; the second-highest high school drop-out rate; the highest rate of obesity; and the lowest rate of social mobility (the ability of people to climb up to a higher economic level than that into which they were born).

In tests of students from around the world, in various subjects, America’s children come out far from the top.

Are you satisfied with this picture? I’m not.

What does it say about a political party if it protects that part of the budget where we’re already fat, and wants to trim areas where we are hurting and deficient?

What kind of patriot brags about his country’s greatness while advocating policies that undermine its true strength?


A reminder that I will be talking tomorrow evening — presenting a political strategy for Democrats in heavily Republican districts — at the University of Virginia, at 6 PM, in Room 108 of Clark Hall.

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  1. I basically agree with the premise you have put forward here. My only major point of contention is when we discuss the Israeli/Palestinian issue and I know that there is truth on both sides of that divide. However, that is not the major issue here. The Republicans are pushing for this narrow vision of a country that has no government other than a world record military. Is this the country we want to have? I would say no. They also want an economy where money is concentrated in the hands of a few and the great majority are paid pauper wages. Why do you think they oppose the minimum wage every chance they get and reflexively oppose every idea that Barack Obama presents and why do you think they have embraced the Chicago School Economic model as it strips out the desires of the people and who function to maximize was the concentration of wealth in the hands of a select few. The Koch brothers obviously believe one of those few will be themselves. Same with the Bushes and same with the Romneys.

    I do not like that vision where the successful stomp on the heads of the downtrodden and refuse to have empathy for the plight of the poor and the sickly. They even put in poison legislation in the name of fiscal soundness to kill the Postal Service so the likes of FedEx, UPS and DHL are the only options for sending packages and letters between others. They also want to allow internet access to be controlled at the corporate level to permit corporations to deny access to websites they did not like for whatever reason. They want the government to give them the airwaves and the right of ways to do what they will without nary a thought as to the negative costs to society, the environment and the coarsening of political talk across the political divide of this country. In what other country can a political party embrace anti-Science and come very close to succeeding? With enough money, as this is concentrated in the few who want access to the riches of this country without paying the real costs for this extraction, they may eventually succeed and then we will be in a sorry state as we have gone a long way to achieving a concentrated moneyed state under George W. Bush.

  2. Richard H. Randall

    Agree with both of you gentlemen. As a 20 year army vet, I do know there are reasonable ways to cut the budget. However, as a sometimes ‘interventionist’ I want our men and women to have the best in military gear and support, here and abrouad to do the job the nation wants done and then support the troops when they come home. It has been said the the GOP’s support for the troops is a mile wide and an inch deep, and that is indeed the case.
    The classical economics approach to t;he world is much to blame for our troubles today. We’d be much better off if we adopted the environemtal approach of thinkers like Herman Daly (‘Beyond Gowth,” and “For the Common Good” with John Cobb.)It’s a focus on economics that values people, the future and certainly the environment, so of course Robin, the Chicago school hates it. Personally I’m sick of hearing about competitiveness and efficiency, and think it is high time that we focused on
    cooperation, justice and fairness.
    Finally, at todays 3Quarks DAily, see the article by Joshua FArley, entitled,
    ‘Against Growth.’ A good look at the anti-moral/and anti-science foundations of modern economics!

  3. Richard H. RAndall

    I wish to say again to both of you: well done on your conversation above.
    Next, I’d like to say that I am tired of the minority-the racist, misogynist, ignorance loving minority, blocking progressive attempts to solve our real problems through democratic means.
    I am going to call Harry Reid’s office tomorrow and give them hell. HIs failure of nerve has cost us too much.
    Andy you and I criticised Obama for years for his very weak performance in the face of a morally discredited opposition. Hopefully we see a ‘new’man with no next election to worry about: I am cautiously optimistic. jI look forward to any news from your speaking engagement tonight.

  4. Richard H. Randall, I am also very upset with Harry Reid. When he made that supposed compromise for comity in the Senate, I noted in my head to pay attention to when the first abuse of the Filibuster would occur. I didn’t have to wait long as the Republicans Filibustered Hagels nomination to be Secretary of Defense although they tried to say it wasn’t a Filibuster. What it was was the first Filibuster of the Secretary of Defense nomination in the Senate because a Republican dared to disagree with the monolithic stance of the Republican party on a war of choice. I also believe in giving our troops the tools they need and deserve to fight the wars we send them into and I also respect them when they return and will work to provide support and benefits that befit those who fought to keep us free.

    For those Republicans who supported George W. Bush, recall, as a cost cutting measure, that Administration told all who council returning vets both those retiring and those leaving before being able to get retirement to not tell them the benefits they had available to them and also released the hounds of Capitalism to sell them insurance they didn’t need. If you are Republican who now says you do not support George W. Bush look back to 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 and try to recall if you supported him in any of those years. By 2003 it was clear to anyone who looked that he was not good for this country. In fact by September 2001 we should have known.

  5. Richard H. Randall

    Hi Robin,
    No, not only am I not a Republican, I did not vote for Papa Bush nor Shrub Bush. Papa lost much of the GI vote for killing the transition benefits for the soldiers airmen, marines and seamen subject to the reduction in force cuts (RIF) after the BErlin WAll came down. I was teaching philosophy at North Idaho College in the time period you cite above: I gave four talks arguing that the intended war in Iraq was wrong, unjustified and immoral under the laws of war. Numerous veterans in the audiences agreed with me. Now of course we know there were no WMDs, and the administration used torture which is outlawed, etc…and which is clearly stated so in a soldier’s Law of Land WArfare training, which I taught in several different postings.

  6. Richard H Randall, I was not trying to imply you were a Republican. Just wanted to clear that up. My message was addressed to those who just read and don’t post to bring up the anti soldier aspect of Republicans that is there for all to see who are looking.

    In 2001, by December, I was about 98% certain there were no significant WMDs in Iraq and my certainty became even more certain by the “Shock and Awe” campaign. I had a sick feeling in my stomach when I was watching TV as George W. Bush announced “Shock and Awe” as I was certain that the war was based on lies. I told anyone I knew and my sister will back me up. It was clear to any who was looking critically that the case for war was a sham. I got in an argument with a guy at one of my high school reunions. He was convinced that the chemical weapons were buried in the desert somewhere. I told him I couldn’t guarantee that there weren’t a few errant chemical weapons rounds scattered in Iraq but nothing of substance. I wish I could meet him again and see how he feels about George W. Bush.

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