By James J. Devine
The poor pay more; in greater premiums for automobile insurance, higher interest on credit, and piecemeal pricing for telephone and utility services. Even ‘cheap’ clothing and food cost more because lower quality means more frequent replacement or less nutritional value, so those who have the least to spend wind up spending a larger portion of what meager funds they have.
Government must attack the root causes of poverty by addressing the affordability and availability of necessary goods and services, starting with security, public health, education and justice. Some concrete examples of these services are military defense, police and fire protection, required inoculations and a wide range of informational services plus access to affordable, quality care, public schools, consumer affairs bureaus and the courts.
Abraham Lincoln said the proper role of government is to do for us what we cannot do as individuals or cannot do well alone.
Since 1980, the Republicans have been succeeding in efforts to diminish the quality of life for America’s working middle class families with wages that are stagnant compared to the cost of living, even when the political establishment appears to have been controlled by Democrats.
Lincoln firmly established federal supremacy over state’s rights. Teddy Roosevelt busted the trusts because government for the people means supremacy of the masses over the privileged few, and corporations in particular.
Franklin Roosevelt set out a New Deal to strengthen the middle class at the expense of the rich, whose reckless greed was not contained to themselves when it triggered the Great Depression.
John F. Kennedy set America on a course to breech a New Frontier, which Lyndon Johnson defined as a “Great Society” but we never reached that goal because in the midst of global economic turmoil that accompanied OPEC’s emergence, Reagan and his ilk hijacked our nation.
The rest is not just history, because the struggle to define the proper role of government continues to this day.
Ronald Reagan declared that Lincoln’s government of the people, by the people, for the people *should* perish from the earth. To quote, Reagan said: “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.
Few recall that Reagan also strongly opposed the creation of Medicare. That was a large part of why he became involved in politics.
As President, Reagan shifted costs of government from the rich to the poor, by signing into law tax cuts that favored the most wealthy Americans followed by the two greatest tax increases in history.
Now, the shrinking middle class is fighting for survival against a relentless right-wing drive intended to do nothing less than bring back a form of slavery.
That natural consequence of Reaganomics is clearly un-American. The conflict is simply between these two principles: either it’s every man for himself or we are all in this together. America is about people being united.
Government is not the enemy of civilization, it is its facilitator. America is a nation that rejected a monarch’s dictatorship and embraced the power of the people to set a course for achieving the protection of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Fundamentally, nature and economics are not fair. They are ruthless and cruel, so people established government to make things more fundamentally fair. When the poor pay more, we are missing the mark.
Let me end with a shout out to Thomas Jefferson, whose birthday was April 13, 1743 (He and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826).