Clippings: Darn that government. Or not…

A few years back at an Addison forum devoted to whether the Addison Northwest Supervisory Union should unite under one-board governance, a resident asked rhetorically whether bigger government ever made things better.
Never mind school unification: Given more recent history, that question now looks a little ironic.
After all, the town of Addison and local residents and businesses just happily spent money to celebrate the opening of the new $70 million bridge across Lake Champlain.
Funding for the lovely span, heavily lobbied for by the good folks on both sides of the lake, did not come from passing the hat at the West Addison and Panton general stores and the No-Bridge Restaurant.
No, although the states of New York and Vermont had to kick in their fair shares, most of the money came from the — gasp! — federal government.
Without the collective — and collected — wealth of the nation, the new bridge would not have been possible.
Oh, and without the federal Interstate highway that brings people to that bridge, it would be far less useful.
So, maybe the nation didn’t need the Alaskan Bridge to Nowhere. But the Lake Champlain Bridge? I’m happy to see some of my income tax dollars support it.
And that’s not the only much-lauded, recently built local structure funded by federal largesse.
Last month in Vergennes, officials gathered to sing the praises of the new senior housing and service center on Armory Lane.
Demand has run high for years for elderly housing in the Vergennes area. According to city officials, the waiting list for the existing units in the city contained more than 100 names.
Why didn’t Vergennes just build some? Well, the 25,000-square-foot building cost almost $6 million.
Where did the money come from? Did aldermen hold a bake sale and host a casino night in the Vergennes Opera House?
No, that’s right, the evil government in Washington fronted most of the cash, directly or indirectly.
About $2.1 million came in direct funding, and another $3,275,000 derived from the sale of federal tax credits.
There goes Big Government interfering with our freedom again.
Of course, the good folk in Vergennes were so upset with the shenanigans that they immediately asked the parties responsible for the first project to build another one. That’ll teach them.
Naturally, Big Government haters also like to pick on the U.S. Post Office. You know, those incompetent folks who with a 99.9999999999 percent or better success rate will pick up a letter from your mailbox on Route 30 in Cornwall and deliver it to your Aunt Marge in a Florida mobile home park. And charge the outrageous sum of 45 cents to do so.
Just imagine how much better a private company could do for $25 or more. And if something went wrong, customers could listen to carefully chosen inoffensive music as they navigate the help hotline’s automated menu while hoping to speak to a live person in Jakarta.
Well, good thing Congress stepped up in 2006 to solve that 45-cent problem and take steps to get rid of those eyesore post offices in so many small towns around America, including many in Vermont.
Basically while no one was paying attention and while Republicans still held a majority in Congress, lawmakers passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act.
That law, in the words of esquire.com political blogger Charlie Pierce, “required the USPS to pre-fund 75 years worth of health-care benefits over the next 10 years. (No other government entity ever has been required to do anything like this.) … (and) prevented the USPS from raising rates, or doing anything else that would lift the weight of the fiscal millstone that had been hung upon it.”
According to Pierce’s numbers, the Postal Services would be running an annual profit of $2.4 billion; instead, it is $24 billion in the hole.
Gosh, why would anyone do such a thing? Maybe because they have a vested interest in dismantling Big Government. Let’s ask Karen Hedwig Backman of dailykos.com:
“The implicit and stealth intent of this legislation is to jointly destroy the U.S. Postal Service, creating new revenues and profits for its commercial competitors, and to destroy one of the largest remaining public employee labor unions.”
More recently, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney unveiled his plan to reform education. Predictably, it included vouchers to allow folks to take their education dollars out of public schools and use the money to send kids to private and parochial schools. Great that under the plan his rich friends will have to spend less to send their kids to Choate. Thanks, Mitt.
Now I support the right of parents to choose alternative routes of education for their children, but not to the detriment of education for all. For anyone who seriously believes sucking money out of public schools will improve their performance, I offer the following advice: the pea is under the middle shell, answer the email from the Nigerian prince, and you will win a laptop if you click on that pop-up ad.
So what’s the takeaway? Some folks don’t seem to understand that the federal government, for all its flaws, performs many essential services (Social Security, Medicare, environmental protection, defense and more) that must and should be paid for.
Meanwhile, others have an agenda, almost wholly financially driven, of wanting to dismantle Big Government. Unions and regulations cost corporations and the rich money they would rather keep. It’s no coincidence that in the past 30 years corporations and their friends have funded a whole lot of rhetoric directed at convincing people government is our enemy.
But before then the Watergate scandal should have taught us all one thing — if you want to understand what’s going on, “Follow the money.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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