Former President Ronald Reagan said, “The most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’ “
The rollout of the Affordable Care Act has been another painful reminder of the truth of Reagan’s words. When you combine the absence of leadership and accountability with the amount of money spent on Obamacare, it defies comprehension and invites more suspicion about the unethical use of our money.
And it is our money. As a friend of mine says, “The government does not ‘make’ anything, and it ‘creates’ no wealth. It simply takes from those who labor and redistributes the wealth to others.”
Reagan said, “Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”
The problem with oversized wasteful government and our national debt and tax burden must be addressed before we can effectively resolve something as big as national health care. Current efforts will prove to be symbolic and largely ineffective because of a failure to address need for deeper reforms of government itself.
This is not an exclusive problem of one political party but one that we all share and one we all created, either directly or indirectly. But, as times change, we find ourselves in significant need of a closer look at what we agree to be a reasonable and responsible role for government.
Although government doesn’t have to be the problem, when the large majority of Americans distrust their government, it’s time for significant changes. We face a disturbing combination in America of widespread voter apathy and citizen outrage regarding government.
What does it tell us when a large majority of people either don’t care enough to vote or have become too cynical to believe that participation will make a difference?
Most responsible Americans don’t trust our government to handle anything in an effective and cost-efficient manner.
Perhaps a helpful step toward a different way of understanding government would be to change the way we talk about it. I think it would help if we stopped saying, “The government should pay for …” and instead said, “You and I should pay for … .” Since this is how it actually works, it would be a return to reality to talk this way.
See if it changes your thinking by shifting the conversation back into reality. Instead of saying, “The government should pay for XYZ,” try saying, “You and I should pay for XYZ,” and see if it changes your opinion.
Do you feel our government is doing a good job at handling our money? Are you encouraged about giving them more money and trusting them to be responsible with it? Do you think the federal government should be required to live within their means without borrowing money or placing unreasonable tax burdens on citizens?
I think I know how most Americans would answer these questions. So what are we going to do about it? We can complain about government all day, but we need to ask hard questions about how to reform and refine it. In my 30 years of leadership, I’ve been committed to looking for solutions instead focusing on problems and obstacles. Yet I must admit that it’s hard to see a clear path to reforming our government.
I am grateful for the efforts of those in government who serve with integrity by trying to keep costs down to protect citizens from unreasonable tax burdens. But I fear that bitter political and ideological partisanship and a polarizing 24-hour news media make it nearly impossible for good men and women to be effective servants of the people. Men like Dr. Ben Carson make so much sense when they talk about our problems, but actually implementing their ideas and solutions would take a miracle. Perhaps that is what we need.
I’ll close with another warning from Ronald Reagan: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States, where men were free.”
Steven W. Cornell, senior pastor at Millersville Bible Church and a correspondent for Lancaster Newspapers Inc.