The services we expect

By Lewis J. Goldberg
web posted February 21, 2000

Do we understand what it means to be totally self-sufficient? Most of us do not. Even many of us who profess to be great conservatives and libertarians do not realize what that philosophy means when taken to its logical conclusion. Self-sufficiency, as was intended by the Founding Fathers and codified in our nation's constitution, means a lot of things that many of us are not prepared to endure.

We, as a people, have been trained to be reliant on huge government programs for many services that communities have previously taken care of themselves. The Founders realized that government works best when it's local, and deferred most governmental authority to the states, and them likewise to counties and cities. In this century we've seen an upsurge in Federal assistance for programs such as fire, police, and ambulance protection. Grants are available to modernize water treatment and pumping facilities. Extra teachers are provided by Bill Clinton's fiscal largesse.

At the same time as community dependency is up, coincidentally it is common for government at the community level to tax its citizens for the construction of elaborate new government office facilities, faster computers, sponsorship of 'cultural' events, and a host of other expenditures that are claimed to save money in the long run (to paraphrase P.J. O'Rourke, "When does government do anything to save money 'today?'") Our local governments have been divested of the responsibility to provide local services. Federal handouts make it all too easy for City, County, and State governments to have their hands out.

On the national level, Social Security and Medicaid has done as much or more than Welfare has to destroy the American family. We no longer 'look after' our parents...we abandon them in their old age since, after all, they have that big $450 check coming in every month. We no longer have to be concerned about their health because they have Medicaid, and if they become too frail to take care of themselves, the Feds will cheerfully seize their assets (if they have any,) so that they can live in a nursing home until they die (the sooner, the better, from a fiscal point-of-view.)

To imagine a self-sufficient America as the Founders intended is a futile exercise, yet we can do much to point ourselves in the direction of self-sufficiency. We have been the beneficiaries of many luxuries provided at the public trough, which in themselves are good things but some acquired by unethical means. We have in place an Interstate Highway system, the Internet (originally a military project,) and millions of seniors that depend on Social Security. Computers were made possible by government research, first to calculate shell trajectories, and later associated with space exploration. We have a lot of progress to the credit of the hard work and tax dollars of millions of Americans. We should not abandon the progress we've made, rather we should turn the power of progress back to the people who so richly deserve it.

We can do this in a gradual manner. Social Security can be dismantled gracefully. A generous age can be chosen to cut off the support...say 40 years, thus giving people that age or younger at least 25 years to save. Those over the age divide could opt-out for a refund of taxes paid plus interest. Medicaid should be mercilessly cut off from access to anyone who's not already on it. There is no mandate or power in the constitution to wipe our noses or stitch our wounds. Most hospitals have a 'charity care' budget, which would be larger would the Fed and States get out of the hospitals' back pockets with their filthy regulations. Contrary to Liberals' claims, more old people would not be dying in the streets because the government didn't look after them. People are already dying in the streets with programs out the wazoo and I suspect that it'd be the same people dying if the programs were discontinued.

We can discontinue Federal assistance for higher education. Like health care, higher education is more expensive these days because there is more money to pay for it. Like any business distributing any product, colleges charge more every year because they know they can. No, the money doesn't go into a slush fund for greedy administrators, it gets spent on bigger sports facilities, new math buildings, more parking; things that become 'necessities' when the money to build them is readily available. We are lulled into thinking that our colleges' improvements are a benefit to society and we shouldn't mind paying for! Colleges should teach. How much does it cost to make a teachers mouth move? If they want a basketball facility, let 'em sell cookies in front of Wal-Mart (If the NCAA would just strip-off the phoney-baloney 'ethics' and play for money up front [instead of under the table, like they do now,] they'd have plenty of cash for their precious arenas without raping my wallet for it. Make them pull their weight, fergoshsakes.)

We can also get rid of the Department of Education. This Federal bloat-ocracy is absolutely and totally useless. Not a penny of what they do has any measurable benefit whatsoever. Education belongs to communities and they should do it with whatever money they get from local taxes. Better yet, education should be the parents' responsibility. Why should childless couples or singles be taxed to educate your kids? 'For the betterment of society' is not a valid answer. You want to 'better' society, do it with your money, not someone else's.

If we ripped out the government infrastructure of entitlements, horrible and terrible things would happen: families would grow closer and depend on each other, church giving and volunteerism would increase, crime would drop, employment would increase, friendships would be more meaningful. Sounds like wistful longing for the magic of the 'good-old-days.' It was not magic, it was just people being people, not beneficiaries. The 'good-old-days' never really died; they still exist in pockets here and there and are available to anyone who wants a better life, and a kinder relative than Uncle Sam.

Much to the aggravation of the 'entitlement establishment' there are people who seek to bring back the closeness that can only be experienced by truly free peoples; people who are really free to express their beliefs (in public as well as alone,) to find their own solutions to local problems, and to give people around them the support they need to be independent, not to be a 'statistic of compassion' for the socialists that have taken over our precious America.

Lewis J. Goldberg is a regular contributor and the person behind PlanetGoldberg.

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