Social Question

ETpro's avatar

In the USA, what should be the role of Government, what should be reserved to the private sector and what is best served by a public/private partnership?

Asked by ETpro (34594points) March 24th, 2010

When we say government, let’s talk about Federal, state and local levels. We desperately need to debate this publically, civilly and widely. “Militia groups: are on the march today as they haven’t been since the days leading up to the civil war. Tea Baggers plan an armed Take Your Guns to Washington rally in Virginia on April 19th, the anniversary of the Branch Davidian Fire and the Murrah Federal Building bombing. There is talk of throwing bricks through the windows of every Democrat that voted for the historic healthcare reform, and of “taking them out.” Limbaugh even exhorted his listeners to “take them out.”

There is serious talk of armed insurrection to “take back our country.” From whom is not quite clear. From the majority of voters who elected Barack Obama President? He won by a margin of 10 million votes. For a president who inherited an economy left in shambles by the previous administration, Obama still has a positive rating in public opinion polls. People have gotten so polarized into far-right and left that it sometimes seems like the sane center has become an endangered species. If we don’t stop this, open war is going to break out.

Not only must we worry about domestic terrorism. As we bicker about what we should and shouldn’t pay government to do, the bills for what it actually does right now just keep piling up. The National Debt is around $12.7 trillion dollars and growing rapidly. It will soon hit 100% of our Gross Domestic Product, which is currently $14.2 trillion. Now mind you, we have paid down heavier debt before. In 1945, after spending to repair the damage of the Great Depression then fight WWII, which the pain of the Depression helped trigger, our debt soared to 120% of GDP and we paid it down. We set taxes at 70% and above on very high incomes, and paid it down.

Every President from Harry Trumann to Carter kept bringing the debt down. Reagan slashed top rates from 70% to 28% and for the first time since WWII, the debt began to rise. Not rise, it skyrocketed. It tripled in his 8 years. We have been so seduced first by the “Get Something for Nothing” promises of Democrats then by the Get Everything for Nothing” promises of Republicans that neither side seems capable of facing the debt and reversing it.

Our federal deficit can no longer be staunched with a band aid. We are hemorrhaging money from the jugular vein. We must stop the bleeding or die as a nation, but we cannot even seriously discuss how till we face the facts of what government needs to do for us, and what is best let to individuals or private corporations to do. We can balance the budget by either killing Medicare, Medicaid, welfare/workfare and most other government services, eliminating defense spending, or raising taxes. Nothing short of that will do enough to fix our debt problem. So, what should we do?

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35 Answers

jaytkay's avatar

Tea Baggers plan an armed Take Your Guns to Washington rally in Virginia on April 19th, the anniversary of the Branch Davidian Fire and the Murrah Federal Building bombing.

—At least they recognize what team they play for.

Now mind you, we have paid down heavier debt before. In 1945, after spending to repair the damage of the Great Depression then fight WWII, which the pain of the Depression helped trigger, our debt soared to 120% of GDP and we paid it down.

—Meaning we are not in dire end-times straits. I’d say 1941 probably felt a lot worse than our situation today.

—If there’s one lesson to be learned from the Civil war, it’s “Next time the backwards states want to secede, let them”. If the red states leave, and stop leeching off the productive states, we will be fine.

DarkScribe's avatar

There is serious talk of armed insurrection to “take back our country.”

No there isn’t.

(You do understand what “serious” means don’t you?)

gorillapaws's avatar

@jaytkay “we paid it down.”

No we didn’t we just had GDP increase so the ratio improved; that’s not the same thing as paying it down. When we finally had budget surpluses at the end of the Clinton term and we were in a position to begin paying down our debt, we instead gave a tax cut that disproportionately favored the richest Americans, and ended up going from record budget surpluses to record deficits…

wonderingwhy's avatar

In broad strokes it seems the role of the government should to enact the will of the people (read: provide the mechanisms to ensure the peoples chosen rights). Industry should be providing new ideas and pretty much everything else the people demand (read: innovation and provision of wants). It’s the individuals responsibility to ensure both do their jobs responsibly (read: fire their asses when they don’t get the job done).

As to debt, the only way to get out of debt is stop spending more than you make. Whether you make more or spend less or a little of both doesn’t make any difference.

Ron_C's avatar

The tea party people are positive proof that watching television and listening to right wing radio will rot your brain. I can’t describe how stupid it is for people to take up arms to prevent the government from righting a grievous wrong. If they are concerned about the debt, why don’t they ask their sponsors to pay back the money ($2 trillion) they make from the Bush tax cut?

It is really stupid, a bunch of trailer park people marching to protect millionaires. It is like serfs protecting the castle.

AstroChuck's avatar

If you really want roof that the Tea Baggers are completely clueless about things all you have to do is look at the name they’ve adopted for themselves.

gorillapaws's avatar

How about this solution: we give the Republicans Texas, and give them the share of the national debt generated by Republican administrations and have them all move there. They can elect Palin as their leader, replace history books with Bibles, arm EVERYONE with fully automatic weapons and see how well they do.

Ron_C's avatar

@AstroChuck I got a kick out of the town hall meetings. People on Social Security complaining about the government take over of health care, The guy that broke his leg and the meeting participants took up a collection because he didn’t have health insurance. Now the tea party people are spitting on congressmen that did their job and started health care reform, they are calling black members the N word, and threatening to have an armed march on Washington. They are carrying a full load of stupid.

AstroChuck's avatar

Btw, I meant “If you really want proof…”

laureth's avatar

Re: full load of stupid

This excerpt is from here, a blog run by one of GWB’s old speechwriters. As such, it leans conservative.

“We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.

There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible. How do you negotiate with somebody who wants to murder your grandmother? Or – more exactly – with somebody whom your voters have been persuaded to believe wants to murder their grandmother?

I’ve been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. Yes it mobilizes supporters – but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination. When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say – but what is equally true – is that he also wants Republicans to fail. If Republicans succeed – if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office – Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds.

So today’s defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will now be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, it’s mission accomplished. For the cause they purport to represent, it’s Waterloo all right: ours.”

One of the first things we need is for people to realize that entertainment is not news. News informs, entertainment titillates for money.

Rarebear's avatar

My feeling is that society has a responsibility to ensure a healthy educated populace. It doesn’t necessarily need to be ensured by the government.

janbb's avatar

@AstroChuck You knew I was about to jump all over you!

phillis's avatar

Insurrection? Revolt? What should I do – refuse to participate? It’s about damn time “we the people” took our country back from the people who are supposed to be working for US. Instead, they’ve helped themselves with both hands and left us to fight over the scraps.

I can’t trust either side, Jim. It’s mostly rhetoric spewed by egocentric people who fine-honed thier sociopathy into a nice standard of living at the expense of everybody else. We’ve had this talk before, but now it’s coming to pass that perhaps I wasn’t as off my rocker as it might have seemed. What is the difference between saying “let them eat cake”, and not saying it, but forcing a populus do it anyway?

If they want to revolt, let them. Nature has a way of righting itself after imbalance. Our dear politicians have earned an ass whipping for their arrogance.

ETpro's avatar

@gorillapaws No, we slowly paid it down in terms of real dollars 2008 dollars. See

@phyllis Part of what I say below applies to you too if you say “it’s about time.” Vote, get involved, blog, advocate, but do not threaten violence and resort to terrorism when your side doesn’t win the day.

@DarkScribe I hope you are simply saying there is no “serious threatening talk” out of ignorance and not some sense that the rhetoric and action needs to get far deadlier. Here are a few facts that demonstrate the threat level as of today. More than ten members of the House Democratic Caucus have received direct death threats by phone. The FBI is investigating. Tea Party activists tried to post Democratic Congressman Tom Perriello of Virginia’s home address on their blog, but they got his brother’s address by error. Someone cut the gas line leading into his brother’s house. Fortunately the family smelled gas and were able to get repairs made before an explosion. When they learned of the error in addresses, the Tea Baggers responsible posted on their blog, “collateral damage.”

NRC Chairman Michael Steele posted an all-page fund-raising add with the banner screaming ”“Fire Nancy Pelosi””: and a deliberately strident looking picture of the Speaker of the House in front of a raging inferno. Get it? FIRE her? In case the RNC has a momentary return to sanity and removes it, here is another site with a bit of a screen capture. Tea Baggers posted pictures of the children of Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and called for them to be ’‘assassinated’’.

If you see such incidents as great, business as usual, not serious then you are part of the problem, not part of the solution. Such angry right-wing rhetoric is what fired up the hatred of the 1990s Militia Movement that culminated in Timothy McVeigh murdering 168 innocent people with a truck bomb on April 19, 1995 in the most deadly single incident of domestic terrorism in US history. And the level of talk radio and even Republican rhetoric on Capital Hill is far louder and more pervasive today than it was in the mid 1990s. This is going to lead to open insurrection if the heated rhetoric isn’t doused soon. If it does, it will get a very large number of misguided, angry right wingers killed. Despite their misguided beliefs, they are hopelessly outnumbered. If it were not so, there would be no need to use terrorism. They could simply prevail at the ballot box.

phillis's avatar

I’m not on a “side”, remember? I distrust both sides equally. Whatever the politicians get, they’ve earned it, short of physically harming them. Dethroning them works for me! Arrogance has it’s own reward.

ETpro's avatar

@phillis Killing their children and blowing up their brother’s homes they have not earned. There is nothing so egregiously wrong in the healthcare bill just passed to justify such acts as that.

phillis's avatar

…..which is precisely what I said in my last post, Jim.

ETpro's avatar

@phillis I was not taking you to task for advocating such violence. What concerned me is that in the face of talk such as the RWNJs are spreading today, statements like “It’s about time we take our country back.” are like pouring gasoline on a fire.

I agree we have drifted way to far toward corporatocracy and both parties have all too often sold us out to corporate masters. But the way to fix that is through reasoned discussion and education of “We the people” and not through domestic terrorism.

phillis's avatar

Then how about reverse economic terrorism? I’d feel perfectly fine turning the tables back on the original aggressors. That still does not dethrone those who allowed it to happen, however. These people have been bed fellows for a long, long time. It is human nature to become complacent toward others once you’re sated. How do we handle that? Obviously, voting does not work.

ETpro's avatar

@phillis Writing works great if you write to the right people, which is precisely why I asked this question here. I will learn from many of you, refine this thought and post it on my Sodahead blog where many, many more people will see it. If there are good ideas in it, they will filter into the blogosphere and from there into political discussion and maybe make a difference.

Corporatism is unsustainable. Once the sheer greed of the profit motive gets attached to the Government’s teat, no amount will satisfy the need for ever higher quarterly profits. It will suck us all dry if we don’t cut its connection. I just don’t want to do that with a gun.

What’s worse, the Tea Baggers have been deluded by Corporate Media and K-Street lobbying and law forms that Astroturfed their rage to go out and crucify the very people who are trying to save them, and to turn over even more of our blood and treasure to King Corporate Profits.

DarkScribe's avatar

@ETpro DarkScribe I hope you are simply saying there is no “serious threatening talk” out of ignorance and not some sense that the rhetoric and action needs to get far deadlier.

No, I am stating a fact. There is no “serious” move toward a revolution. A bunch of rednecks and misfits muttering into their beers is not serious. There are a bunch of almost comical email and web campaigns being run by misguided fruitcakes – but they are getting nowhere, beyond giving a few people a giggle.

DarkScribe's avatar

@ETpro DarkScribe I hope you are simply saying there is no “serious threatening talk” out of ignorance and not some sense that the rhetoric and action needs to get far deadlier.

No, I am stating a fact. There is no “serious” move toward a revolution. A bunch of rednecks and misfits muttering into their beers is not serious. There are a number of almost comical email and web campaigns being run by misguided fruitcakes – but they are getting nowhere, beyond giving a few people a giggle. As a part of my career responsibilities I subscribe to most of them. They vary between excruciatingly naive and incredibly misguided.

ETpro's avatar

@DarkScribe Thanks for clarifying that you aren’t supporting the move. Flying a plane into the Austin IRS Building isn’t just chattering online. Neither is cutting the gas line to someone’s home hoping to blow up their entire family. In both cases, the intent was terrorism and murder. It is just by fortune that only 1 person was killed other than the suicide pilot. There is good reason to be concerned these are not just isolated instances, but are a sign of growing mass hysteria among a sizable set of our citizenry.

I posted a question today about a new Harris Poll that suggests that the numbers harboring lunatic fringe beliefs are quite substantial. I would appreciate hearing what you think of the poll’s results.

DarkScribe's avatar

@ETpro Thanks for clarifying that you aren’t supporting the move

The pilot had a grudge with the IRS – he wasn’t a terrorist, and America has had mass murderer suicides for decades – they are homegrown ratbags, not part of an organised rebellion. You are reaching – seeing things that aren’t there. Every act of violence is neither terrorism nor organised (as against personal) rebellion.

galileogirl's avatar

@DarkScribe I lived in Texas from 1959–1962 and there was the same kind of crazyness in the air regarding Kennedy and the actions of his administration. We have seen rising emotional speech over women’s rights lead to murder. It doesn’t have to be organized but the constitutional cowboys and know-nothing teabaggers provide cover and encouragement for the guy who will commit criminal acts. When that does happen, Boehner and his ilk will scatter like cockroaches. The right wing will deny any culpability..

mattbrowne's avatar

Everything that is related to providing a good framework to meet the first two levels of human needs as shown in's_hierarchy_of_needs pyramid like freshwater supply, safety rules for food, health insurance for everyone, safety net for the unemployed, police, military etc. the public sector and the government is more reliable.

For the rest of the pyramid family, society as a whole and the private sector are more creative and efficient.

Ron_C's avatar

@mattbrowne I never thought of using Maslow to support my contention that health care should be a basic function of government mostly because when I studied him I was feeling that psychology was b.s.

You have shown me that it can actually be useful….probably one of the few help uses of that fringe science. Thanks.

rottenit's avatar

Would we be better served by tossing out the concepts of “Right” and “Left” and coming up with something new? Is there such a thing to innovate in government or are we stuck with what seems to be the same friggin arguments/sides?

Before Bush 2 I thought I was a republican, I do agree with some of the “we need to be free/limited government (to a certain extent”) thinking there. After Bush I didn’t know what the hell I was so I bought into the change and I think some of what Obama is doing was either necessary or he just got screwed with it, but what blows my mind is the same shit that keeps happening in our government, secrecy, hidden agendas, dishonesty & greed (either for money or power).

So what do we do? I don’t know, I think we are screwed either way, the nature of our government and economy revolves around greed, which unfortunately is the nature of most people.

Maybe we need to hold our leaders to better standards, not turn them into celebrities after they get kicked out of office. Give other candidates (not the Dems or Republicans) a fighting chance to win an election, and come up with new ideas.

Or alternatively, bury our heads in the TV, watching Paris, Lindsey, Hanna, the Pussycat Dolls, Jersey shore, or American Idol. Stay uninformed and easily manipulated about our government, and just elect people that promise us the most shit, least taxes and easiest life.

Thats my parties new platform “The most shit, least taxes and easiest life” party!

ETpro's avatar

@DarkScribe I tracked down the IRS kamikaze pilot’s rant, and I think in his case you are right. He doesn’t appear to be part of any organized movement, just an extremely frustrated, disillusioned guy who hit the snapping point. I hope you are right also that I’m just overreacting to the seeming senseless rage. Time will soon tell.

@rottenit I feel your pain. Governments are no better nor worse than corporations or ordinary people. We the people have the government we fell for because so many of us do immerse ourselves in entertainment and remain somewhere between ill informed and willfully ignorant. Governments, corporations, electorates alike are just made up of people with all the foibles that people have, greed and laziness being two of the chief villains.

mattbrowne's avatar

Disenchantment with politics doesn’t solve our problems. Everyone can join a political party or found a new one. Everyone can run for a town council seat. I actually think the majority of people is not greedy. Obama certainly isn’t.

laureth's avatar

@rottenit – You can get rid of “left” and “right if you want, but you may have trouble getting the rest of the world to toss out a descriptive metaphor that is understood so widely. Call them green and purple if you want, but the opinions of those folks aren’t going to change. A rose by any other name, etc.

ETpro's avatar

@mattbrowne Agreed. There are those on the left who still want massive federal programs to help everyone do everything—but they are actually in a distinct minority. I don’t know that they have ever been a majority. Republicans run mostly now against straw men they erect, and the Tax and spend Democrat [sic] Party” is one of their favorite windmills to joust with. The bemoan the staggering debt, and rightly so, but ignore the fact the Republicans ran most of it up beginning with Reagan’s election—and they still vote to get more tax cuts that will fix the debt. I think they are more naive and deluded than greedy. Those pushing the agenda, the authoritarian leaders of the right-wing authoritarian followers—are very greedy.

mattbrowne's avatar

@ETpro – Thanks for the tip. Well, I’m a moderate liberal and I blame lazy imperfect individuals with imperfect parents growing up in imperfect countries. Though we will never see perfection, we should move in the right direction. This is what Obama meant when he blames slackers who think higher education is uncool or something for a white-collar elite and when he blames the richest country in the world for being unable to offer health insurance to more than 30 million of its citizens. We always need a combination of individual and collective responsibility. Federal programs need to be complemented by family values, good parenting and a good work ethic of each individual. There’s the African proverb: It takes a village to raise a child.

ETpro's avatar

@mattbrowne All very true. We’re on the same wavelength there.

Ron_C's avatar

This is just an after thought. The Tea Party slogan is highly distorted. What they say it “take our country back”, what they mean is “give our country to our corporate elite”.

Too bad there isn’t a hell for Reagan to burn in. It would also await Greenspan, both Bushes, Clinton, and Gingrich.

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