Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Case for Big Government

The major back-and-forth between conservatives and liberals is the question of how large of a role government should play in our society.

While liberals believe that bigger government can serve to benefit the masses, conservatives feel that big government is wasteful, inefficient, and makes people less independent. And, in some cases, that can be true. But every organization – public or private – has inherent waste and abuse. Even a successfully run company will always suffer a small percentage waste and certain inefficiencies.

But in the same way a business will never forgo certain investments and opportunities - regardless of the potential of waste and abuse – our government should never limit the role it plays in our society.

I’m a first generation American. I’ve been diagnosed with cancer, and have had 2 minor heart surgeries. My parents are successful small business owners, have needed unemployment benefits and student loans, and have lived off the minimum wage. If there’s one thing we know, it’s that big government was critical to our success.

My mom migrated to this country when she was 18 years old. While enrolled as a full-time student at a community college, she also worked full-time at a nursing home for minimum wage ($3.25 an hour). However, since the minimum wage was only $3.25 an hour, she also needed student loans. In other words, without help from the government, my mother would not have been able to attend college.

When I was born, my mom had a job that paid a meager $20,000 a year, and my father had just started his own business in an outdoor flea market.  At that point, we were part of the working poor, and thus needed help from the government in the form of tax breaks aimed at working families (earned income tax credit and child tax credit).

When my sister was born, and while my dad’s business continued to struggle, my mom’s company unexpectedly laid her off due to downsizing. To help us pay our bills – and keep our home – while my parents struggled to find additional work, we needed unemployment benefits. In other words, without government stepping in, my parents would not have been able to survive.

When I was 13 years old, I was diagnosed with cancer, even though I had always taken very good care of myself. But because I was fortunate enough to be covered under my parents’ health insurance, I was able to afford yearly check-ups with my doctor. This, in turn, allowed the doctors to find my tumor at an early stage. And because my parents were able to afford the monthly premiums which allowed them to have access to health insurance, we did not have to pay many of the out-of-pocket expenses for my treatment (which was very expensive).

And during the last few years, after undergoing 2 minor heart surgeries for a condition that surfaced as a side-effect of the chemotherapy I took years earlier, I was not kicked off my insurance or locked in to higher premiums because of the Affordable Care Act.

My family and I understand the value that government played in our success. We understand that government can invest in its citizens in the same way that a business would invest in its employees or goods and services. We understand that government can serve to ensure equality of opportunity (not outcome). And we understand that no one in this country – regardless of your profession or economic status – can succeed without big government.

As such, without the necessary assistance and guidance, my family would not be as self-sufficient and independent as we are today. Without a strong partner in a government that supports those who work hard and play by the rules, we would not be allowed to reap the fruits of our labor.

Regardless of what political party you belong to, both liberals and conservatives benefit from big government. If you've ever attended a public school; ever needed a tax break; ever used a bank loan; ever needed to buy insurance; ever bought a consumer good; ever started a business; you've needed a strong government –and its regulations.   

So the argument that “big government is bad government” is unfounded. Instead, having such a government further encourages competition, strengthens capitalism, maintains fairness, and helps people become more independent.

Just as it always has with my family.