The biggest federal government ever

Posted Saturday, Oct. 05, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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greene In the midst of the blame game over the nation’s 18th government shutdown, an interesting conundrum is developing among the people of our democracy.

Yes, this is No. 18. Previous shutdowns have ranged from one to 21 days in duration. The latest one may be over by the time you read this.

All kinds of issues, especially the overriding arguments about the size and cost of government, are among the causes of hanging “closed” signs on federal offices across the land.

The result of all these shutdowns, in the end, is the government got bigger, more invasive, more pervasive and more expensive.

But now, according to the latest Gallup Analytics, the American people have had enough of the breathtaking growth of government in their lives.

Six of every 10 of us, the largest percentage ever, now believe the federal government has too much power.

When broken down by party affiliation, 81 percent of Republicans agree with the country’s majority — not surprising. Also not surprising is that only 38 percent of Democrats are worried about the growth of government.

Democrats would appear to be way out of step with the majority. Even they, however, express more concern than they did during President Obama’s first couple of years in office when only 25 percent of them thought the government was too formidable.

Among the important “independents,” 65 percent answered Gallup’s question by saying the federal government has too much power. That number has grown by 10 percentage points since Obama was first elected.

Such a trend would encourage candidates with records of opposing the expansion of federal power and depress those who champion an ever-increasing role of Washington in public and private life.

President Obama’s job approval ratings, just published by The New York Times, dipped to 43 percent, with only 30 percent of Americans believing he cares “a lot” about their needs. This, along with Gallup’s numbers on opinions of government power, would suggest he should try harder.

Then we come to public support for Obamacare. Polls show a majority favoring some aspects, such as preventing insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and requiring large companies to provide coverage for their workers.

Other parts of the new law aren’t so popular. The results, on balance, would indicate more than half the people would like to see revisions, exceptions and waivers similar to those already authorized by the administration for certain corporations, labor groups and members of Congress.

Now for the conundrum.

If the majority of the country is fed up with the growth of federal power, with fewer people than anytime since the president took office believing he cares a lot about them, and half the population wanting revisions to Obamacare, why are Republicans getting the blame for doing what they promised when seeking votes in the last elections?

As for the federal work force, which I once was part of, being victimized by Republicans, well, as we say in Texas, that dog won’t hunt either. Congress isn’t going to penalize federal workers for something they didn’t cause. The legislators and our recalcitrant president are to blame, not public employees.

They will all get back pay when they return to work, with the outcome for them being an unscheduled furlough they can enjoy while politicians wrangle a resolution.

Lots of political theater, this shutdown. I predict at least one certain outcome from it all — the number of people fed up with the growth of the federal government is going to get bigger and bigger.

Maybe voters will make election decisions that are consistent with their belief that enough is enough. At least we can hope.

Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.

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