Last week we lamented the loss of our ability to dream, to put the possible back on our list of things to do. It was the way we once thought, a yearning to do better, and with shared vision we built better lives for all ‒ or, at least, were well on the way.
We needed a return to the kind of government and governing that helped our long strides upward in education, in public health and welfare, and forward in urban renewal, in transportation, research and development, and took us to new heights in the arts and, even, entertainment. We needed
to recover our promise. We needed to dream.
OK, let’s dream.
Let’s begin by getting the government back into politics. Sounds odd, even a bit nuts. But it would do us a world of good to hear a candidate cheer the benefits of good government, a stronger system of pragmatic policy-making. We had it once, and it helped us to build a better nation and be a better people. It produced, among other things, an interstate highway network to barren as well as congested regions; federal reservoirs relieved flooding, and brought water to the parched; we expanded our colleges and universities, enhanced scientific research and development that helped us to go to the moon, and, on the way, produce extraordinary gadgets and gizmos; government financed and inspired improvements in public health, expanded agencies to help the poor, the aged and infirm, the unemployed. It helped us to achieve new heights in commerce and manufacturing, farm production, agricultural research, urban and community development.
More, government had urged us to be a better people, through advances in civil rights and voting rights, reform of our courts, of ethics in government. The list of government accomplishments and inspirations seems endless, and that’s the idea. We need it back.
We might be on the way, with a candidate ‒ Republican, Democrat, Independent, Mugwump, whatever ‒ who said it was time to bring government back into our lives, in a good way.
We can begin by investing heavily in repair and improvement of our infrastructure starting with roads and bridges, airports and train stations; we can bring cyberworld and related technologies to underserved sectors the way we once brought electricity and telephones to remote and impoverished communities. Think of the jobs created, the skills needed.
Education, from pre-K through post-graduate research, needs our commitment and our government’s investment. It’s a splendid way to improve opportunities for American workers, and bring better wages and working conditions to teachers and professors, who in other nations are held in high esteem.
Research and development ‒ in science and industry, commerce and education, agriculture, and more ‒ can bring us the tools and the inspiration to be a better people, to live better lives. Don’t we all want that?
A quality government bureaucracy would, again, return us to shared mission, with focus on the objective at hand, not on the profit to be skimmed. What we have now is a crazyquilt pattern of “privatizing” and subcontracting essential agencies and services. The result is half-way or half-baked projects on the discount, efforts that prove the maxim that we can go broke trying to go cheap.
We must stop belittling public employees. Agency directors, supervisors and staff in it for the long haul, who are respected and committed public servants, are invaluable and essential to any successful government program.
In the end, people comprise the government. In an ideal world the mission is strengthened, enhanced through shared purpose. For example, we cannot have a strong state without strong cities and counties; a hopeful state is one with excellent schools, an educational system that offers promise to the next generation. A better state is one with a government that invests in its people, in itself. Of course it cannot happen without taxes, without mutual and equitable commitment, one that returns its investment many times over. This enhanced return is more probable than possible, The proof
lies in our history, when government worked for the people, rather than taking on schemes to suppress or stifle them.
We once shared a vision that spanned the ideological spectrum, a view that government can help us do great deeds and take magnificent strides when it is allowed to do its job. We can share it again. All we have to do is try.