It’s Us

September 29th, 2010

A follow-up to our earlier piece, Not Faceless, inspired by The downside of rolling back the government workforce (Washington Post 9/29/10). After you finish the poem, be sure to read the longer text discussion below.

“American families are making tough decisions everyday. It’s simply time the federal government does the same.” – House Republican spokesman Brendan Buck

The government isn’t a separate thing

Capable of suffering.

When we “punish” the government, it’s the American people who suffer.

Times are already tough. Should we make them tougher?

Republicans know that, but they don’t care:

For them, regular people’s suffering is neither here nor there.

It’s more important to them that the rich pay little or no tax,

And that regulation of their Big Business masters be even more lax.

In reality, government personnel costs are only 4% of total spending:

Cut that in half and you don’t come close, the deficit to ending.

But you would significantly reduce the quality of government services,

Which shows that the quote above the key point misses.

Not only that, most of those “cost-cutting” measures don’t cut costs at all—

They just shift where the burden of those costs fall.

It doesn’t take an economics scholar

To know it’s dumb to save a dime if that costs you a dollar.

So Teabaggers, redirect your discontent

Because we ourselves are the government.


Illustrating a similar anti-government vein, here’s Rachel’s 9/28/10 report about Senator Jim DeMint’s plan to shut down the government.


The “tough decisions” quote above is one of those things that sounds reasonble at first, but if you really think about it, is not.

The “government” is not a separate entity that can and should share our suffering, somehow lessening the pain by sharing it. The government is us. We are the government.

The government and its employees exists for the public benefit. We can (and should) debate what the government should do and how, but this basic principal should be beyond debate.

If the Social Security Administration cuts staff and as a result takes an extra two weeks to get peoples’ checks out, the SSA doesn’t suffer: the people it serves do. If the Department of Agriculture has to cut employees or can’t hire needed new inspectors, and as a result thousands of Americans are killed or sickened by tainted meat, the “government” doesn’t suffer, we do.

The government should have the staff necessary to do its work: no more, no less. Arbitrarily cutting or limiting government staff, while portrayed as a cost-saving measure, often isn’t. First, not having enough staff to monitor and manage programs properly usually costs a lot more than it saves. Second, as the Post article cited above states, federal workforce downsizing also often ends up costing taxpayers more, as work is shifted to high-priced contractors. And third, the vaunted savings are often negligible, since government personnel costs are but a small portion of the overal federal budget (4% in 2009).

As the Post article describes, between December 2008 and March 2010, the number of pending Social Security disability cases dropped by 71,000, and and the average processing time for hearings was reduced from 514 to 442 days. That increased efficiency was made possible by increased staff approved by Congress and the Obama Administration. (The article cited many other such examples as well.)

If you’re against government programs like Social Security (which the GOP was at its inception and a number of Republicans continue to be, to varying degrees), the increased efficiendcy something you care about: rather than improving the program, you’d prefer to eliminate (or “privatize”) it, and it’s easier to justify elimination of a poorly-run program than a well-run one.

As usual, the GOP catch phrase above (unfortunately also sometimes echoed by Dems, though never by them carried to the extreme that the GOP takes it) masks a deeper goal: Republicans don’t want government to be effective, or even efficient. First, it goes against their deeply-felt belief that government is the enemy. Second, and more perniciously, ineffective government benefits the GOP’s core constituency. BP benefited (at least in the short term) by the paucity of government safety inspectors assigned to monitor their off-shore oil rigs; the American public, the environment, and the 11 rig workers who died did not.

Yes, when we suffer, it eases the mind to know that others feel and share your pain. But Republican messaging to the contrary, the government is not a useless or even nefarious “other” — It is us.

Arbitrarily cutting government employees, reducing service efficiency, and putting American workers, consumers, and the environment at risk is not a “hard” decision: it’s a bad one.

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One Response to “It’s Us”

  1. Newsericks » Blog Archive » Your Money Says:

    […] Our federal, state, and local governments are our employees. They provide public services, in return for which we pay taxes. “When Repubicans ‘punish’ government, it’s the American people who suffer. Times are already tough. Should we make them tougher? So please redirect your discontent Because we ourselves are the government.” — It’s Us […]

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