Home > Uncategorized > Insufferable Cheerful Liberalism is NOT the Cause of Distrust in Government… Lying Is.

Insufferable Cheerful Liberalism is NOT the Cause of Distrust in Government… Lying Is.

I read the Caledonia Record, a regional and conservative regional newspaper to get a different perspective on the world than I get from Naked Capitalism, Diane Ravitch, the New York Times, Truthdig, Common Dreams, and any number of articles sent my way via social media. Today’s paper had a column by George Will that, predictably, raised my blood pressure a bit. Here’s a letter I submitted in response to the column:

George Will’s column, “Insufferable Cheerful Liberals”, critiquing historian David Goldfield’s new book “The Gifted Generation: When Government Was Good” misses the mark. The American public did not lose their faith in government because liberalism “swerved in another direction” between 1964 and 1980. The American public lost faith in government during those 16 years because they learned through the publication of the Pentagon Papers that Presidents from BOTH parties lied to them about the war in Viet Nam. They learned through the tapes that came out of the Watergate investigation that President Nixon’s behavior behind closed doors was disgraceful and that he repeatedly lied to the public. To make matters even worse, they learned from the 1973 and 1979 oil crisis and the hostage-taking during Jimmy Carter’s presidency that the federal government was powerless in the face of actions by Middle East dictators and theocrats. Ronald Reagan capitalized on this lack of trust and sense of powerlessness in 1980 by declaring bluntly that “government was the problem”. Since then neither party has dared to oppose that proposition, with the GOP moving toward a libertarianism that expects everyone to fend for themselves and the Democratic party moving toward a neoliberalism that expects the private sector to assume responsibility for providing social services.

As one who grew up trusting the government, I agree with Mr. Will that the government should used “”liberal means… to achieve conservative results”, and that programs should avoid “maintaining people as permanent wards of government” by creating “an educated, property-owning middle class equipped for self-reliant striving.” But given the cuts to education departments at all levels of government, given both parties’ willingness to bail out banks but not borrowers, and given both parties’ faith in corporations-who-are-citizens to make decisions in the best interest of the public I don’t see that happening any time soon. If we ever hope to see government succeed, we need to stop starving it of funds that will fund programs like the GI Bill that create “an educated, property-owning middle class equipped for self-reliant striving.”

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