Jim Crawford: Making government serve the people

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 10, 2021

In the 1990 Tom Hanks movie “Joe vs. the Volcano,” Hanks is portrayed as a down-on-his-luck everyman working in a dead-end job like so many Americans today.

So many jobs lost during the worst of the pandemic only reminding many Americans that even barring COVID-19, the country seemed to be moving away from their hopes to prosper in an economy geared more towards technology and stock market wealth than real jobs for regular people. We can relate to Joe.

We were told for the last 40 years that government was the problem, and that we needed less from our tax contributions.

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Well, we got less, a lot less. But while programs for the people like affordable health care and paid family leave were just too costly to consider, two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan were necessary we were told. Those wars cost us $6.4 Trillion, and the cost is ongoing for our wounded veterans.

Then the Trump administration told us if we would just use our tax dollars to cut the taxes on the richest Americans and the largest corporations, we would all benefit.

We did not benefit, and the annual deficits created by this gift to the richest are being paid for by all of us, but not by the richest Americans and not by the biggest corporations.

They continue to prosper by lower taxes on stock market gains, and corporate tax rates so low, over 50 of the largest corporations on the planet no longer pay any taxes. The cost? Over $1 Trillion a year and ongoing.

And those who led us for the past 40 years, both Republican and Democrat, continue telling us we need to lower our expectations on how our government can use our taxes to make us better, more competitive, more prosperous.

Meanwhile our military spending, already obscenely high (43 percent of the world’s military spending annually and more than the next ten nations combined), continues to rise in peacetime, reflecting again that we cannot afford things like new bridges, clean water, pre-school, or day care, because defense, corporations, and the stock market families, all need our tax money more than our families do.

Then, along comes a new Joe, who is really the old Joe Biden we all know.

This Joe is bringing some volcanic heat and some ground-shaking change to these long-held claims of what our taxes should do for our people.

Joe tells us if we spend about $6 trillion (A little less than the two wars we should never have fought) over 15 years, and about one-third more than the annual federal budget of $4.4 trillion, that we can Build America Back Better with new and competitive infrastructure; a new commitment to research so America can return to lead the world in Innovation; a national shift to renewable energy; more educational support to keep our children at the front of progress; and more support for our families in child care, family leave, and affordable prescriptions.

And it can all be paid for simply by reversing the policies of government for the richest, and policies for the corporations, policies that starve our families of benefits other developed nations have long offered their citizens.

But there is a risk to Biden’s ambitious plans. While virtually all his programs announced are supported by wide majorities of the American people, they do call for We the People to agree that the 40 years of smaller government for us have failed everyone but the few and the big.

We cannot afford both ideas, to continue to support the failed policies of the recent past, and to move forward with programs for the people.

Can Joe deliver? Can he work with Republicans? Can government really serve us once again?

Jim Crawford is a retired educator, political enthusiast and award-winning columnist living here in the Tri-State.