Obama recently pulled out his full anti-Reagan message. Government is not the problem, according to Obama, because government is the solution. This is not just a message; it is a religious call to faith. When Reagan claimed “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help,’” no one needed blind faith to believe him. They had raw experience at the DMV or with the IRS or some other government agency. Obama calls us to “hope”—his term for an anti-intellectual leap of faith that the people in government are somehow us—“we the people”—and at the same time, supercompetent and incorruptible saviors to whom we should be happy to pay taxes.
Here is the video circulating among conservatives, here is the full commencement address, and here is the transcript. One of the most popular quotations that is (rightfully) angering conservatives is below, but I have put what I think is Obama’s most important word in bold face:
“Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems. They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices.”
In context that, “separate” is everything. As you can see in the transcript, it is essential to his argument. The previous paragraph sets it up:
“We, the people, chose to do these things together — because we know this country cannot accomplish great things if we pursue nothing greater than our own individual ambition.”
And what were “these things” that we “chose to do… together”?
“They left us the keys to a system of self-government, the tools to do big things and important things together that we could not possibly do alone — to stretch railroads and electricity and a highway system across a sprawling continent. To educate our people with a system of public schools and land-grant colleges, including The Ohio State University. To care for the sick and the vulnerable, and provide a basic level of protection from falling into abject poverty in the wealthiest nation on Earth.”
I don’t have time to refute all the lies, so I’ll stop there.
Private people pursuing their own ambitions are exactly the people who more efficiently and cheaply revolutionized transportation across this continent. When the government finally imposed the vision of Republicans (reborn Whigs) on this country, they funded corrupt contractors who deliberately laid meandering railroad tracks because they government, much like the way they paid contractors in Iraq, reimbursed the company for every foot of track that was laid. There was no point in choosing the shortest and most efficient railroad lines under such conditions. And the tax-fed railroad companies in turn gave money to the politicians who were using taxes from the people, each for his” own individual ambition.” For those who care, this was also the same regime that made exterminating the Indians for their land a state policy—something private settlers pursuing their own ambitions did not impose.
Literacy rates and the level of education were far higher and better before the Federal and State governments started using taxes to drive private schools out of business and train parents to believe they are incapable of educating their children or themselves.
And if you think the government was the great mover in caring for the sick, all you have to do is look at the original names of virtually every hospital. The government has effectively nationalized a thriving private and/or religious group of institutions.
All this is hidden under the lie, “we the people.” But politicians are just as much pursuing their own ambitions as anyone else. The only difference is that they get to be above the law and don’t have to get voluntary cooperation. They control the laws—which means they control the guns.
Unlike Obama’s call to faith, my claims are sober rationality. You merely have to acknowledge that the same people who are allegedly incapable of improving the world on their own are also incapable of selecting incorruptible and omnicompetent gods from among us who are magically able to know and do everything “we” want.