In 1985, a musical version of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn opened on Broadway. The music and lyrics were written by country musician Roger Miller. The work received seven Tony awards, one as best musical of the year. If you remember the story, Huck is adopted by the widow Thatcher and when Huck’s father, Pap Finn, learns about this he sequesters Huck in his cabin in the woods. In the musical, Pap goes into a rant against a government that would take his son from him. The lyrics go this way:
Well, you dad gum guv'ment
You sorry so and so's
You got your dang hands in every pocket
Of my clothes
Well you dad gum, dad gum, dad gum, guv'ment
Oh, don't I you know
Oh, don't you love 'em sometimes
You dad gum guv'ment
You better pay attention
You're sittin' up there like a fool's convention
Well, you dad gum, dad gum, dad gum guv'ment
Oh don't you know
Oh don't you love 'em sometimes
Indeed, Americans are weary of and wary of their government. In a 2023 Gallup poll, when asked about the size and power of the federal government, sixty-seven percent of the respondents said they were “somewhat dissatisfied” to “very dissatisfied.” In a poll conducted by Pew Research in 2022, only twenty percent of Americans said they trust government to do what is right most or all the time.
The problem with all the above is that the spleen is vented on the wrong object. Blaming government for our ills constitutes the same fallacious logic as that employed by the anti-gun movement, which blames the gun and not the shooter for violent acts. A gun is an inert object. Government is inert. Both have to be controlled by humans. In the case of a firearm, a single person is in control. In the case of government, at the national level, 536 politicians are in control. Yet, rarely do people cast blame on politicians, because, as a congressman once told me, “Everyone hates the government and Congress, but they love their own congressman.”
The Collins English Dictionary defines an electrical system: “An electric system consists of all of the elements needed to distribute electrical power, including overhead and underground lines, poles, transformers, and other equipment.” An electrical system does nothing until it receives electricity.
Government is simply a system of order for society. Our government system is laid out in the Constitution. That Constitution provides for the offices of the people who will drive that system. We call them politicians. They are the electricity in our government system.
The first Congress met on March 4, 1789 in New York City’s Federal Hall. James Madison, a representative from Virginia and the Founding Father given the title of “Father of the Constitution,” wrote to Edmund Randolph, also a member of the Constitutional Convention, on May 31, 1789, “Scarcely a day passes without some striking evidence of the delays and perplexities springing merely from the want of precedents. ” This was new business to these new politicians who had only some words on an untitled parchment to guide them. It began, “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union...” At the end of this preamble, we learn what it is: “...do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
A page on the National Archives website briefly describes the first Congress:
All these tasks had to fit within the boundaries of the Constitution. The members of this first Congress were not without wise advisors. Of the twenty-two senators and fifty-nine representatives who convened the first session of the United States Congress, ighteen-almost twenty-five percent- had been members of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. But, as Madison wrote, there were no precedents for these new leaders of this new nation.
The first law they passed was to set the oaths of office of federal and some state officeholders. The second law they passed levied duties on goods imported into the United States. These men had created a government, a system by which the society could live in order. Then, over time, as the elected members of Congress began to see the power they could wield, things began to change.
When your property taxes go up, don’t blame the appraisal district or government. When income tax rates increase, don’t blame the Internal Revenue Service or government. When your social security benefits are decreased, don’t blame the Social Security System or the government. Government has no opinion. Government is silent until politicians give government authority to act. Politicians are the only people who can correct the bad acts of government, because politicians are the people who gave the government the authority to act badly.
Politicians love to hear their constituents say, “The government did this or that,” rather than, “Congressman Thus and So caused my taxes to go up.” Even members of Congress, when campaigning, blame the government for the ills. They run against the government in their campaigns.
A couple of years ago, a Dallas/Fort Worth area congressman was interviewed on a local radio station. When asked about the growing deficit of the federal government, he responded, “No question about it. And it needs to be addressed now. The deficit is the biggest problem we have in the country. The federal government's got to go back and address the spending. And we have to do that. And we do that by cutting more regulations and getting serious about spending. I mean, unless the government decides we're going to cut spending we're never going to cash flow out of this thing.”
He, a member of the United States Congress, the body which spends your money faster than they can take it from you, blamed who? Not himself and the guys who created the deficit, but the institution they control. That is hypocrisy on a grand scale.
Folks, when you are mad because of the mess we are in, don’t blame government. Place the blame where it lies, on POLITICIANS.© Jim Terry
The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.