Both conservatives and liberals have distorted views of government. The conservatives aspire to Ronald Reagan’s view that “government is the problem.” Really? The essential roles for the United States government as laid out in the Preamble to the Constitution suggest otherwise. The government has to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare of the citizens of the nation. That all takes legislation, laws, and money. Conservatives may not like the fact that government has a job or they insist government cannot do anything right. Really? Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the U. S. military are all indications of the good that government can do. Government is not your enemy.
Liberals have it wrong, too. Government should not supplant the private sector and competitive capitalism. Government cannot fix everything. Absorbing the cost of student debt, opening the southern border, paying for reparations for slavery, and Medicare for all may be excessive use of governmental power. The liberal agenda has government fixing everything. It can no more do that than it can relax on the oversight of polluters, drug manufacturers, or the airlines.
There is a delicate balance—a tightrope—that government has to walk, assuring the basic rights and safety of all Americans and not stifling the benefits of capitalism.
Last week, the balance got shoved over in Texas.
Texas has largely walked away from guaranteeing its citizens access to energy. In a drive to establish a competitive and low cost energy market and escape federal regulation by keeping the grid within the borders of the state, Texas legislators and executives established a system that collapsed last week. In short, the real source of the problem was an insufficient amount of government oversight.
In the complexity of life on Capitol Hill, it is often lost on the members of Congress and certainly on their staffs that their role is to improve the lives of regular Americans, not win some stupid fight over a precept in some arcane legislative bill. That being said, the current strife in Washington over President Biden’s covid relief package is one of trying to strike the right balance between helping Americans in need and stuffing the bill full of liberal causes celebre. Why not get the aid out now and bolster the needs of the unemployed and worry about the minimum wage and DC statehood at some other time?
Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 can be summed up in the idea that those who voted for him had decided that government wasn’t working for them and that trying Trump might make things better. Unfortunately, Mr. Trump never really improved the lot of the people who put him in the White House and certainly did not use the levers of power to lead the country through the storm of covid. Thus, he lost in his re-election bid. But President Biden is misreading his putative mandate as something more than a 7-million vote rejection of Trump. His victory was not a mandate for the liberal agenda of AOC, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.
It’s not that people want more or less government. They want smarter government, government that doesn’t just collect taxes and throw the money into the Potomac, but rather adheres to the message of the Preamble and uses its resources to do good for the people paying those taxes. Let’s see if Mr. Biden can be smarter than his last few predecessors. It wouldn’t take all that much. Can he lead a government that finds the sweet spot between walking away from oversight and regulating everything? We shall all see soon.