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Devolutionizing Big Government
We don’t usually think much about national politics around here, but maybe it’s time we did. Newt and Bill are apparently in a race to see who can “devolutionize” Big Government fastest. Newt wanted to give 40 million poverty level Americans a laptop computer so they can join Heidi and Alvin Toffler’s Information Age. When someone pointed out that this would cost at least $40 billion, Newt allowed as how that might have been a dumb idea. Nevertheless, both he and Bill (not to mention Ross Perot) are apparently still headed toward the notion of national plebiscites hooked up via modem to every home in America. We should also shut down most of the bureaucracies (excepting Congress itself, of course). William Safire suggests we rid ourselves of the Veterans Administration.
We all profess to hate Big Government; but waste and interference seem to bother us only when it’s about other people. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, Welfare, unemployment checks and EPA rules and regulations all seem to us like big wastes, unless, of course, we’re one of those sucking at the government breast, which is most of us, one way or another. In that case, we whine like deprived babies when a Big Government program is threatened.
A majority of the American people voted for change in November, and we’re getting it, in a big way. But we may rethink that when we walk into our post office and instead of friendly Bert find a big unfriendly machine with blinking lights telling us it’s out of the 52¢ stamps we need for First Class postage and a sign telling us to take our packages to Estes Park or Lyons.
We need to think about these things because we have no government of our own in Allenspark. Without a government of our own we’re just a bunch of crackpot individuals writing to our congresspersons. Without a government of our own we’re just, quite literally, voices crying in the wilderness. If government is devolutionized we’re going to be in dire straits. God forbid we should have to pay for a sewage system without a Big Government grant. God forbid we should have to pay for the maintenance of our roads. God forbid we should have to shovel snow from in front of the Fire Station or that we should have to pay the full bill for fire protection or Social Services. If we destroy Big Government, Allenspark is going to be on its own and in big trouble.
Eighty years ago the valley was inhabited by a very few hardy souls who were on their own and liked it that way. The roads took care of themselves and if there was a fire you put it out or let the thing burn; it was just a fact of life in the mountains. Today, however, we’re very dependent on the very thing we claim to despise. If we hear a noise we call the sheriff. We write to the county commissioners and complain about the roads. We depend on the federal government to protect our water and declare us Wild and Scenic. Many of us use Boulder County Aging Services and in the summer we ride the Special Transit Busses to do our shopping. Some of us use Meals on Wheels and go the Nurses’ Clinic. We curse the Public Utilities Commission, but we’re damn glad to have private telephone lines, which would have been pretty difficult to get from the phone company on our own. When we want to improve the place, the first thing we look for is matching or grant money from the county, state, or federal government. A number of us work for these governments, and quite a few more have pensions from them. Still, we revile Big Government, curse all bureaucrats and protest every rise in our property taxes.
It’s too early to tell how far Newt and Bill are willing to go in dismantling the federal bureaucracy in order to please the voters; it’s too soon to know what the effects will be on those of us at the bottom of the food chain, but it may be time to begin thinking about being on our own once again and ways to manage our own money, before the government money well runs dry. Big Government is so big it will be very hard to dismantle, and maybe Newt and Bill and all the others who were given the mandate for change won’t succeed. But maybe they will. We need to remember that before we wish too hard for something, we ought to consider, very closely, what will happen if our wish is fulfilled.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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