“Our system only works when we realize that government is not some alien thing. Government is not some conspiracy or plot. It’s not something to oppress you. Government’s us in a democracy. Government is us.”
This caricature of Obama’s – that his opponents view government as some alien oppressor – is a convenient straw man for Obama to knock over (just like the caricature that Democrats want government to fix every problem). But, in reality, proponents of small government want just that: a government that’s small. Not no government whatsoever.
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And the reason for that is because government frequently messes things up for other people.
Let’s go over the various ways that government is most definitely not “us”:
1. When Government Shoots You
I can’t imagine trying to dispel the concerns of the Black Lives Matter movement by saying, “Hey, cops are government, and government is us!” I don’t think any of them – or anyone at all, for that matter – would accept the “stop hitting yourself” understanding of police brutality.
And I notice President Obama certainly didn’t try it when he praised the movement last week.
2. When Government Throws You in Jail
If you break the law and get thrown in jail, you’ve actually been imprisoned by yourself. Government is us, after all, so it’s really nothing more than a self-imposed time out. You can leave any time you like.
Except that you can’t leave any time you like, because you didn’t jail yourself. Other people did it to you, and they’re paid to keep you put.
That’s why jail sucks. Get it?
3. When Government Regulates into Oblivion Something You Liked
I’m not just talking about lawn darts and Easy-Bake Ovens. I’m talking about things like, oh, let’s say, a health insurance plan with an appealing combination of coverage, premiums, and deductibles. Government may have promised that you could keep these things, and then acted in a way that did just the opposite.
However, according to President Obama, you’re the one who violated your own promise to yourself. Shame on you. What were you thinking?
4. When You Pay Taxes to the Government
You may not have noticed, but every year we go through a complex ritual of mathematical acrobatics accompanied by the filling out of obscure tax forms. This is ultimately a pointless ceremony, according to Obama, because it amounts to nothing more than you giving money to government, which is also you. So shouldn’t we just streamline the whole process by going out once a year, buying ourselves a milkshake, and calling it all even?
Except, if you do that, you will likely encounter an government IRS official – who is not you – who may then introduce you to a government correctional officer – who is also definitely not you (see point 2 above).
5. When Government Makes You Strip to Your Undies
These days, before getting on an airplane, you must first be made effectively naked. This is not some kind of narcissistic, pre-flight selfie auto-erotica: it is government regulation, carried out by a TSA official who is absolutely not you. I mean, you’ve probably never met them before in your entire life.
But who knows, maybe if you worked out a little, they’d be interested in getting to know you a better. They might even let you keep that naked picture they took of you.
6. When a Court Rules Against You
Several years ago, Susette Kelo sued the City of New London, Conneticut, over its use of eminent domain to take her house in the name of redevelopment. Or did she sue herself over her own use of eminent domain to take her house from herself so she could redevelop it? It’s all so confusing.
At any rate, the Supreme Court ruled against her in favor of the government. Which, in Obama’s understanding, means that she won, so what’s she got to complain about?
When people lose to government, everybody wins, because government is us!
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