Thoughts & Views: Gov’t stumbles threat to Republic?

I always liked to think of myself as a progressive minded member of society, sympathetic to the idea that government can play a positive role in providing the greater good for the greater number of people.

Things like Medicare, Social Security, pensions all make sense to me, as safeguards against old age and infirmity, particularly as I venture into my golden years.

But if we continue to rely on Uncle Sam to have our backs, the way FDR’s reforms intended, there’s reason to believe that we may not safely make it to the Promised Land.

Just look at the revelations about how federal transportation monitors sidestepped riding herd on GM’s faulty air bags, even after taxpayers provided a nearly $50 billion bailout package to the carmaker.

Or the reports about federal highway overseers overriding state concerns about the failure of guardrails to actually protect motorists from injuries upon impact.

Seems that whenever there’s an issue that impacts the welfare of everyday citizens, it’s corporate profits that always seem to prevail with federal policymakers.

Despite admissions that it’s too design-flawed to fly, the Pentagon continues to push for billions to fund a series of F-35 Lighting II fighter jets manufactured by Lockheed.

Despite being led – until recently – by a decorated combat vet, the Veterans Administration has let down many of our ailing servicemen and women in a stateside scandal linked to administrators’ avarice.

Until Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s recent speech about security risks triggered by climate change, the U.S. has opposed signing any global treaties that would commit the nation to aggressively controlling fossil fuel emissions.

Federal agriculture officials have tamped down consumer advocates’ push for more rigorous inspections and enforcement of animal food processing regulations, preferring to have agribusiness look after its own operations.

Although federal regulatory agencies have signed off on banking reforms designed to prevent the creation of instruments based on high-risk assets sold to clients under false pretenses, the bankers have been granted some exemptions and compliance has been left to their own devices.

The highest court of the land has let stand a restrictive election law in Texas mandating voters to show photo ID at the polls, which, critics say, will lead to disenfranchising thousands of minorities. It has also justified a ban on citizen protest on the court’s outdoor plaza as not conflicting with the First Amendment.

One wonders if the U.S. Center for Disease Control and the newly appointed Ebola czar are up to the task of providing sufficient training for health care personnel at hospitals and airports entrusted with the unenviable job of intercepting and caring for people exposed to the deadly disease.

What lessons can we take away from these disquieting concerns? Are we wrong to put any trust in government for fear of betrayal? Should we rely only on our own enterprise to make things right for the greater good? Or, is the distance between the ideal and the reality just too wide to reconcile?

The Obama administration, or what’s left of it, will be gone before we know it, in the blink of a Beltway eye, and no doubt there will be the usual rash of books of blame by some of the folks who tried to steer the ship.

But I suspect that none of them will be able to satisfactorily explain how the elected leader of our Republic can translate good intentions to action without fear or favor of how those deeds will be perceived by a persnickety press, a chronically complaining Congress and demanding campaign donors.

In a country with so many and diverse constituent parts, it is a small miracle that anything is accomplished but I suppose the good thing about that is that between the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, there’s plenty of room to maneuver in the system.

— Ron Leir

The Observer Staff