In an opinion column last Friday, Marshall Frey wrote about the need for civic responsibility in the United States. Yet the opinion he put forth and the tone in which it was written was completely irresponsible.
He began by pointing out the fact that he couldn’t find a clause protecting the rights to life, liberty and universal health care in the Constitution. Very observant, because two of the three can only be found in the Declaration of Independence. But a very important clause is found in the Constitution, specifically the Preamble, and it deals with promoting the general welfare.
This is why I reject Frey’s idea of civic responsibility and ask you to do the same. Instead, the U.S. needs to acknowledge the fact that the federal government can and does play an important role in our lives.
First let us look at the Constitution. Nowhere in that sacred document are there clauses pertaining to food safety, workers’ rights, airport security or anti-discrimination laws. I doubt Frey or anyone else could reasonably argue that the U.S. would be better off without the federal government’s oversight in these crucial areas. The federal government takes on these roles because either no one else will or no one else can.
Take, for example, the trailers FEMA gave out after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Frey seems to think that the government was not responsible for housing all those people. But who else was going to do it? The people certainly couldn’t do it; we simply don’t have enough empty homes lying around. Private businesses won’t do it, because no one can make money by keeping thousands of trailers around and waiting for natural disasters to devastate entire cities. The federal government, however, can and should, because it has the resources necessary to do so.
Frey goes on to tell those of us who have lost our jobs to take responsibility and find a new job instead of waiting in the unemployment line. Here he seems to have lost all touch with the reality that so many citizens of the U.S. face, especially in our current economic situation. Today, as unemployment hovers around ten percent, people want to find new jobs and be responsible citizens, but they simply can’t. The jobs are nowhere to be found.
The federal government then plays a very important role in creating new jobs and protecting those who have become unemployed. Thus we have job creation bills like the stimulus package or the new jobs bill currently going through Congress and unemployment benefits for people who lose their jobs and have no other way of supporting themselves. While big government is not always ideal, it is so far the best solution to overcoming unemployment during economic crises.
Frey correctly points out that the U.S. did not become prominent by waiting for the Pony Express to deliver unemployment checks. However, we did become prominent in the wake of the Great Depression when we implemented many of the same policies I described above.
We didn’t become prominent because we “spent time bickering over who can and can’t fight in the military,” as Frey says. We became prominent by demanding those rights. We became prominent by building a durable federal government that has seen this nation through the good times and the bad.
Thus, I challenge you not only to take responsibility and help your neighbors when they are hurt, but also to restore faith in a system that has served us so well for so long. This is not only the right thing to do, it is the responsible thing to do.