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You Can't Govern if You Don't Believe in Government

By       Message Thom Hartmann     Permalink
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In a May 25, 2001 interview, Grover Norquist told National Public Radio's Mara Liasson, "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub."

Norquist got his wish. Democracy - and at least several thousand people, most of them Democrats, black, and poor - drowned last week in the basin of New Orleans. Our nation failed in its response, because for most of the past 25 years conservatives who don't believe in governance have run our government.

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As incompetent as George W. Bush has been in his response to the disaster in New Orleans, he wasn't the one who began the process that inevitably led to that disaster spiraling out of control.

That would be Ronald Reagan.

It was Reagan who began the deliberate and intentional destruction of the United States of America when he famously cracked (and then incessantly repeated): "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"

Reagan, like George W. Bush after him, failed to understand that when people come together into community, and then into nationhood, that they organize themselves to protect themselves from predators, both human and corporate, both domestic and foreign. This form of organization is called government.

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But the Reagan/Bush ideologues don't "believe" in government, in anything other than a military and police capacity. Government should punish, they agree, but it should never nurture, protect, or defend individuals. Nurturing and protecting, they suggest, is the more appropriate role of religious institutions, private charities, families, and - perhaps most important - corporations.

Let the corporations handle your old-age pension. Let the corporations decide how much protection we and our environment need from their toxics. Let the corporations decide what we're paid. Let the corporations decide what doctor we can see, when, and for what purpose.

This is the exact opposite of the vision for which the Founders of this nation fought and died. When Thomas Jefferson changed John Locke's "Life, liberty, and private property" to "Live, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," it was the first time in the history of the world that a newly founded nation had written the word "happiness" into its founding document. The phrase "promote the general welfare" - another revolutionary concept - first appeared in the preamble to our Constitution in 1787.

Talk show cons and TV talking head cons and political cons - both Republican and DLC Democratic - repeat the mantra of "smaller government," and Americans nod their heads in agreement, not realizing the hidden agenda at work.

Reagan was the first American president to actually preach that his own job was a bad thing. He once said, "Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first." One can only assume he was speaking of himself and his fellow Republicans, and certainly the current Congress's devotion to the interests of inherited wealth and large corporations displays how badly his philosophy has corrupted a role so noble it drew idealists like Jefferson, Lincoln, and the two Roosevelts.

But cons can't imagine anybody wanting to devote their lives to the service of their nation. The highest calling in their minds is to make profit.

As Reagan said: "The best minds are not in government. If any were, business would hire them away."

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This mind-set - that the only purpose for service in government is to set up the interests of business - may account for why not a single military-eligible member of the Bush or Cheney families has enlisted in their parents' "Noble Cause," whereas all four sons of Franklin Roosevelt joined and each was decorated - on merit - for bravery in the deadly conflict of World War II.

There are, after all, no reasons in the conservative worldview for government service other than self-enrichment. As Ronald Reagan said: "Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed there are many rewards, if you disgrace yourself you can always write a book."

What they don't say is that the reason they want to remove government in its protective capacity is because they can then make an enormous amount of money, and have a lot of control over people's lives, when they privatize former governmental functions. They want a power vacuum, so corporations and the rich can step in. And with no limits on the inheritability of riches after the "death tax" is ended, wealth vast enough to take over the government can emerge.

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http://www.thomhartmann.com
Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning New York Times best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk program on the Air America Radio Network, live noon-3 PM ET. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People," "What Would Jefferson Do?," "Screwed: The Undeclared War (more...)
 

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