23 April 2011

Perspective or Parallax?

Dear Reader,

You know I live in Grand Rapids Michigan, right? Well, a dear friend from back east came to visit this weekend and one reason he came is to see the Gerald Ford Museum. He 'collects' presidential sites and this one was among the few he had not seen.

Anyway, we spent the afternoon there. And noticed something I did not the first time. President Ford ran on a lower taxes platform. Now, I did vote in this election, it was my second presidential election in fact, but as a southern born 'yellow dog' Democrat then (and still now in case you want to know) my vote was already cast. Besides, I got married less than a month before the election and taxes were far from my mind.

Seeing it today, though, reminded me that lower taxes and smaller government have been on the Republican Agenda for a long time. They may not have succeeded (I believe that 'government' was larger at the end of both Reagan and Bush 2, and taxes may have been higher at the end of Reagan and Bush 1) but the ideas of lower taxes and smaller government have been Republican goals for at least 35 years.

The cynical part of me ("you have a cynical side?" I hear you saying facetiously)grudgingly admires this for its political savvy because who actually wants more taxes and more government? But I shall be both fair and balanced and assume the Republican Party is sincere in this as well as shrewd.

The issue, though, is not big or small but right or wrong. That is, how much of government and therefore tax revenue do we need to do the things we believe we must as a nation? It is the lack of a common vision of government itself that is hobbling us.

Fifty or so years ago the differences between the major parties were more about means not ends, about how best to govern. Today they argue about the end of government itself, but, and this is vital THEY DO NOT SAY SO. By addressing only the size of government and taxes they avoid or evade the underlying question of what government should do. They parties end up only throwing the same old round house punches in the hope that one can knock out the other and win.

The country is everyone, and whoever wins has to live with whoever loses. Pretty simple idea and any couple who ever argued knows this truth of this. But apparently Congress does not get it.

Maybe we should build great big dorms for Congress and make them live in in double rooms like freshmen, one liberal and one conservative. OK,it probably won't help but if would make for a really cool reality show at least.

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