Commentary: Time to get rid of Big Government?

The Miami HeraldMay 25, 2010 

It's fashionable to be mad at the government these days, but many folks are unclear about how to join the movement.

The first step is to master the idiom of outrage. It's not just government, it's Big Government. Or even better: Big Guv'ment.

Huge, clunky, intrusive, exorbitant — that's Uncle Sam. Get off our backs, get out of our lives and let go of our wallets!

The sentiment has been around for 234 years, but never before did we have the Internet to make it feel so fresh and original. Every red-blooded patriot should aspire to a life that's more or less free of government, which apparently can't do anything right.

Let's begin with health care. President Obama should immediately abandon health care reform and turn the whole confusing mess back over to the insurance companies, with no federal rules or supervision.

Wouldn't that be swell?

The problem with such a bold plan is Medicare, which funds critical coverage for many millions of older Americans. Technically it's a humongous government program, one of the worst drags on the deficit.

But if you got rid of it, lots of people who can't afford to pay for private insurance would grow sick and die, and a public uprising would take place. Even some crotchety Tea Partiers depend on Medicare.

So, OK, leave that one alone. But, otherwise, government doesn't know squat about health care!

Now let's talk about this so-called "financial reform" that the President keeps pushing. Big Guv'ment has no business meddling with our venerable Wall Street banks and brokerage houses, even though they brought the country to the brink of a catastrophic depression. Heck, everybody makes mistakes.

And why should the Federal Reserve set monetary policy when we've got all these sharp dudes at Goldman Sachs and AIG who have at heart only the best interests of ordinary citizens.

The only snag with banishing government completely from the financial sector is something called the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or FDIC.

At least 240 banks have gone belly up since the financial crash, yet most depositors didn't lose a dime. That's because the mission of the FDIC is to guarantee that your savings are safe.

True, it's another layer of federal bureaucracy, but many Americans would have been ruined without it. So, fine, don't touch the FDIC.

Other than that, Mr. Obama, you let the bankers run the banks!

The same hands-off philosophy should guide our national energy strategy -- where does Big Guv'ment get off telling the oil and gas companies where it's safe to drill?

Washington should get out of the way and let the energy industry police itself, because it has the very best expertise and technology . . .

OK, bad example.

Then how about that pesky Food and Drug Administration, huh?

Say your child comes down with the flu. Is it really necessary for government to hassle the pharmaceutical companies over which cough syrups are safe and which are dangerous?

Never mind -- that's another not-so-great example.

Along those same lines, it's also probably not a terrible idea for U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors to take a peek at the chicken and beef that are sold in our grocery stores, just to make sure they aren't crawling with salmonella or e.coli.

Because this is getting a bit confusing, let's recap: Government is totally inept, wasteful and useless, with the possible exceptions of Medicare, the FDIC, FDA and USDA. We might as well add the Coast Guard, which rescued hundreds of people during Katrina and is now scrambling to contain the BP oil spill.

Come to think of it, now would also be a foolish time to chop up the TSA, CIA, NSA, FBI or any of our national security agencies. There are too many terrorists hell-bent on killing Americans, and -- no offense -- most local police departments aren't geared up to screen airline manifests or track al Qaida's cell phone signals.

Oh heck, I just thought of another federal bureaucracy that seems to work pretty well: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Without NOAA, we wouldn't know how large a hurricane was or where it was heading, which is fairly useful information here in Florida.

With the storm season starting next month and the Gulf of Mexico turning black with crude, let's add NOAA to the not-so-worthless list along with Medicare, FDIC, FDA, USDA, the Coast Guard, FBI and so on.

As for the rest of Big Guv'ment, get your shiftless boot off our hard-working necks and let us be -- at least until we're old enough for Social Security.

Then we'll tell you where to send the checks.

ABOUT THE WRITER

Carl Hiaasen was born and reared in South Florida. He joined The Miami Herald in 1976 and worked as a general assignment reporter, magazine writer and award-winning investigative reporter before starting his column in 1985. He is also the author of many novels, including Basket Case, Sick Puppy, Tourist Season and Strip Tease. He can be reached by e-mail at chiaasen@MiamiHerald.com.

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