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April 29, 2011

The General Welfare

Roy Meachum

Government’s inner-workings have never caught my fancy, maybe because I’m an old-fashioned Democrat, following closely Thomas Paine’s wisdom: “That government is best which governs least.”


At the same time, Founding Father Paine expressed concern for the ill and impoverished. The Supreme Court has consistently upheld the government’s programs to share the national wealth. My first Social Security card came because I delivered The Saturday Evening Post in the summer after third grade. Medicare and Medicaid didn’t arrive until President Lyndon B. Johnson.


Much has been made of how the last Republican in the White House extended higher deductions to the wealthy, but little was said about George W. Bush’s Iraq adventure that cost at least several trillion dollars.


Everybody seems to have lost five-star General Dwight Eisenhower’s warning about the Military-Industry Complex (MIC). Yet goaded by the armed forces need to “avenge” the Vietnam War, accompanied by industries’ appetite for more and more profits and Congress’ trying to assume the pose of patriotism lest anyone question their Americanism, this country finds itself in a pair of losing wars, Iraq and Afghanistan. Adding to the woes that are partially inherited and shaky judgments he made, Barack Obama’s reluctance to take on the M-IC does not accrue to his credit. The president has several fires to tend, including gas prices that threaten all elected officials.


Still, it’s possible to wonder aloud how since January 20, 1981, the national debt ballooned from $5.7 trillion to $14.7 trillion last winter. Governments at all levels now are taking from Mr. Paine’s ill and impoverished to pay off the skyrocketing debt. Washington does not live in a bubble; its cuts are reflected in local communities. Frederick County Head Start furnishes an example.


To save the matching $2.3 million Winchester Hall would pony up, the whole project was shoved back on the federal government. As a result, three to four-year old students from high-risk families are denied the opportunity to remedy their “learning problems.” One tenth of the funding wasted on Iraq and Afghan battlefields could permit generations of kids all over the country to read and do arithmetic. Let’s not get into the young Americans killed and maimed; lives almost-begun already lost to any sense of normality. The MIC consumes more than hundreds of billions in dollars.


This was written with the certain knowledge that my friends disagree. They consider betrayal any word against the military and the current wars and some have said so; their numbers, however, are declining over the years. Perhaps less than half of the Americans polled recently still consider winning possible. But pursued victory caused the disappearance from all over the nation programs like Head Start.


Now Congressional Republicans are learning seniors are offering resistance to Medicare cuts on a much higher level than poverty-line parents and their children could. People that voted for Tea Party candidates are indicating withdrawal from the political fray. They were enchanted with the anti-government talk but are uncomfortable with the proposed eliminations.


Newly sworn-in officials are learning again that “General Welfare” is not merely words in the Constitution to be debated and parsed. The concept has been constant throughout the nation’s history. They should mount a snake flag; the one that says “Don’t tread on me!”


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