Are kindergartners who attend a great public school “dependent on government”? Yes, they are.
Are milk truck drivers who make their way to farms on country roads “dependent on government”? Absolutely.
Are homeowners who enjoy the security that extends from quality police and fire protection “dependent on government”? Of course.
Are Americans who rely on Social Security to get by “dependent on government”? Certainly.
Are Americans who utilize Medicare and Medicaid “dependent on government”? Unquestionably.
Depending on government to provide the services and protections that the market has never delivered in an equitable manner simply makes sense. Americans have always recognized that government can, and should, be prepared to address challenges that cannot be practically or functionally addressed by individual citizens acting in isolation from one another.
“Government,” said John Adams at the founding of the American experiment, “is nothing more than the combined force of society, or the united power of the multitude, for the peace, order, safety, good and happiness of the people.”
Abraham Lincoln said, as he was helping to forge the Republican Party, “The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot, so well do, for themselves — in their separate, and individual capacities.”
Eighty years later, in the depths of a Great Depression that was tempered by government intervention, Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “Sometimes the threat to popular government comes from political interests, sometimes from economic interests, sometimes we have to beat off all of them together. But the challenge is always the same — whether each generation facing its own circumstances can summon the practical devotion to attain and retain that greatest good for the greatest number which this government of the people was created to ensure.”
So what does Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, say? As Vos opposes the “People’s Budget” proposed by Gov. Tony Evers, the speaker claims that the governor is scheming “to put more people on welfare.” Vos dismisses efforts by Evers and the governor’s Democratic allies to make health care more accessible and affordable — through an expansion of Medicaid, which has been implemented by many Democratic and Republican governors across the nation — as a “tax-and-spend plan (that) would have expanded welfare programs and reduced accountability in those programs.”
That’s absurd. Evers simply seeks to expand Medicaid with an eye toward providing at least 82,000 additional Wisconsinites with affordable health care. In addition, the governor noted, approving Medicaid expansion would save the state in excess of $320 million.
Expanding Medicaid is a common-sense proposal that makes economic and social sense. Yet Vos claims that he must obstruct efforts by the duly elected governor to deliver needed services and programs to Wisconsinites because: “It’s clear from our constituents that they don’t want more people dependent on government.”
That’s a lie on two levels.
First, it is intellectually and practically dishonest to deride initiatives that widen access to health care — which is, by any decent measure, a human right — as plots to expand welfare programs and make people more dependent on government. Guaranteeing health care to Wisconsinites who need it but cannot afford it represents the modern-day expression of Lincoln’s credo regarding the role of government: “to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done but cannot do, at all, or cannot, so well do, for themselves.”
Second, the people favor the policy initiatives that Vos claims they oppose. When the Marquette University Law School poll surveyed Wisconsinites on the issue of expanding Medicaid coverage, 70 percent said they favored expanding it. Just 23 percent of Wisconsinites were opposed to expansion. "Seventy percent of the people of Wisconsin want these services,” explained Evers, who noted that “these services come from some smart investments on the state's part, drawing down those federal dollars to make sure that we have a better health care system in Wisconsin.”
Evers is right.
Yet Vos keeps saying “no.”
Worse yet, he says “no” in a way that insults the intelligence of Wisconsinites. He peddles a fantasy that there is something wrong with depending on government to meet human needs. There is no evidence that the people of Wisconsin share Vos’ fantasy. For the most part, we share the sentiments of Tony Evers, the man we recently elected governor, and of Franklin Roosevelt, the man we repeatedly backed for president.
“Let us not be afraid to help each other — let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us,” explained FDR eight decades ago. “The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a president and senators and congressmen and government officials but the voters of this country.”
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