By Bob Steinberg
Growing up I remember a man referred to as Johnny Fix-it. Johnny had many skills from plumbing, electrical to carpentry and appliance repair. If it was broken you could depend on Johnny to repair it promptly, efficiently and well within the limited budget of a blue collar family of six in the 1950s and `60s.
If Johnny felt a job was beyond his level of expertise, he would either recommend someone or flatly say, “It can’t be fixed.” I remember him telling my Dad that there’s nothing worse than someone trying to do a job they know little-to-nothing about. He referred to these individuals as “jacklegs” – someone lacking in skill or training while proclaiming acumen for both.
While having Mr. Fix-it only a phone call away was often reassuring, Johnny was not someone who thought he should be giving us financial recommendations, telling us which doctors to use, or offering us career advice in a field other than his own. He knew his limitations. Unfortunately, all too often, government does not.
But that’s how many see government’s role; a nanny state that should be providing us with cradle to grave “security,” unburdening us from such “complicated” tasks as thinking for one’s self, assuming personal responsibility for our actions and decision making, along with lifting us from the overwhelming responsibility of having to utilize our common sense.
When banks and other financial institutions started having fiscal problems last fall, primarily because of mismanagement and greed, President George W. Bush along with Congress came to the “rescue” with $700 billion in tax dollars to underwrite the Troubled Asset and Relief Program (TARP). The management and boards of directors were not held accountable. They still aren’t. Government officials overseeing the bailout have acknowledged difficulties in tracking the money and measuring effectiveness. Interestingly, some of the banks and financial institutions that received $295 billion in bailout money had spent $114 million on lobbying and campaign contributions in the previous election cycle.
The Government now wants to fix global warming. In spite of the most reliable satellite weather data showing that atmospheric temperatures have declined over the last 11 years, a trend expected to continue for some time, the House felt it necessary to pass a climate bill that, according to the Charles River Associates, a Harvard based economics consulting firm, will result in a net loss of 2.5 million jobs each year and cost citizens billions in new taxes.
Last week in the American Spectator, Peter Ferrara wrote, “The rationale for this bill is to counter global warming by sharply reducing greenhouse gasses, primarily carbon dioxide.” He goes on to say, even if this bill works exactly as envisioned, the most radical environmentalists admit it will only slow temperatures by a ridiculous 9/100th of one degree Fahrenheit by 2050; this after reducing our use of fossil fuels by 83 percent!
And now Uncle Sam wants to “fix” healthcare. Democrats will be putting forth a plan by early fall. What’s the government’s track record on running healthcare? President Barack Obama admits Social Security is broke, including Medicare and Medicaid. Both lose billions each year because of mismanagement and fraud.
And how about the Veterans Hospitals? Veterans’ advocates and lawmakers say the VA Medical System is in shambles. They point to botched radiation treatments to nearly 100 cancer patients in Pennsylvania. That comes on the heels of exposing over 10,000 veterans to HIV and hepatitis viruses throughout the system because of faulty procedures. Advocates for national healthcare should have reason for pause.
Government was supposed to fix education as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” reforms. In all too many instances the results are unremarkable. According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, 12-14 percent of adults rate below basic on reading and comprehension, while only 13 percent are rated proficient. Free market enterprises like Sylvan Learning Centers have sprung up to fill the gap between the shortcomings of public education and what employers expect and demand from graduates of our public schools.
The government spent $837 billion or $10,500 per student on education in 2008. With millions of students trapped in failing schools, many parents have no school choice. Even Sweden, the epitome of a taxpayer-funded cradle-to-grave welfare state, introduced a school voucher system in 1992 for independent state schools that is growing in popularity. The increasing competition for students is now raising the curriculum standards for all of Sweden’s schools.
Chrysler, a victim of Fiat and the United Auto Workers Union, is another project the government has taken on, along with General Motors. They not only financially bailed them out, but are even trying to mange the day to day business operations of each. Unfortunately, the very CAFÉ standards (Increased Corporate Average Fuel Economy) previously imposed by government could ultimately imperil the survival of both.
Obama and the Democrats told us the $787 billion stimulus package was needed “immediately” to stop the hemorrhaging of our economy. It’s not working. The only thing booming in the U. S. these days is escalating unemployment. And now we’re told we may need a Stimulus II, adding trillions more to the $11 trillion in debt already imposed on future generations.
Americans have historically been advocates for a limited role for government, preferring instead to emphasize the individual as primarily responsible for insuring his or her well-being. That’s not to say that government shouldn’t play a role in helping to ensure our safety and welfare, but it should not intrude into every aspect of our lives. Even Johnny Fix-it understood that.