Staff column: Government out of lives problematic
The cries from a seemingly long list of people about government intrusion into their lives seems to be pervasive in our society. For sure none of us like taxes, long lines because of security at the airport or waits at the DMV as they struggle to deal with new laws to eliminate illegal aliens for the driver license rolls or bureaucracy that sometimes seems crushing.
But be careful what you wish for. Let's say those that want government out of our life succeeded in getting what they wanted. How different would our society be if that happened?
Think about it. If you work almost anywhere, for any large, medium or maybe even small business, what percentage of your businesses income comes from government spending? For example, I'll even start with the business I am in; newspapers.
Supposedly reputable newspapers are the bastion of free enterprise with no influence from government, right? But basically since the beginning of our government, in fact in colonial times as well, government has been giving newspapers subsidies. Let's face it; every time the government runs a legal in a paper or forces some private entity to run one for lawful purpose, they are paying us money. And what about the post office? The government has subsidized newspapers for years by giving them special rates for bulk and class mail, if the paper stays within certain parameters. There are also many other things that have been done over the years that help newspapers, through government action.
But in the last few years, a lot of this support has started to wane. Based on a study by the University of Southern California, the business support from government for newspapers has steadily declined in the last 40 years. While this is only part of why many newspapers are in trouble (with cable news stations and the internet making big impacts on the printed product) it is still a factor. Overall the report says that total support for newspapers of all kinds that the government once gave is down about 50 percent. Postal rates to not favor newspapers like they used to; many government entities have passed laws that certain kinds of legals no longer need to be in newspapers.
While the later is problematic with the publics right to know at risk, the former is a function of a postal system that is itself facing huge deficits largely caused by private enterprise and the internet too.
So what about your business or the place where your income comes from? You may complain about Haliburton, General Dynamics or Boeing making all this money off the federal government. You may hate the fact that big contractors get road contracts and make a profit. You may see what you think are wasteful public employees in all levels of government employment.
But what about you? What do you get from the government? Here's what you may or may not get. But certainly somewhere along the line you get some of you sustenance from the government.
If you draw a federal or state retirement of any kind you are part of what you are complaining about. If you draw social security, you are also taking money from the government. Sure you paid into it, but depending on how long you draw the payment, you very well could exceed what you paid. If you have kids or grandkids in public schools or in a state university or college you are one of those gaining from the government. If you use roads, sewers, water systems or utilities wholly owned or subsidized by the government you are gaining from the government. If you have ever been out of work and either gathered unemployment or used the job service that the government offers, you have been taking money from the government. If the business you work for gets any money from federal, state, or municipalities or public service districts for any kind of service or product, you are taking money from the government. If you are a couple, do you both work in private enterprise or does one of you work for a government agency? The list goes on and on.
That is not to say our government cannot be more efficient. That is also not to say you don't deserve what you are getting. I am not saying that. All I am saying is that when we complain about the government, what they take from us and how they operate, we may be the ones benefiting from some of what is going on.
It's easy to complain about politicians and their decisions. I don't like some of them and I do like others, just like you. But they are in a field where they are damned if they do and damned if they don't.
Come to think of it, as a newspaper publisher, in that respect their jobs are not so different from mine.