By Michael Steele
In 2018, the idea of the federal government intervening in everyday life is normal among young people and Americans in general. Our generation has grown up with government overreach is many areas of life without the slightest skepticism. I argue that the idea of limited government and the reasoning behind it has been lost or tainted in an ever-growing trend of interventionism. It is not a partisan issue – it is getting back to America’s roots.
Whether Republican or Democrat, young Americans typically lack understanding of the nature of the Constitution – ideas that shaped human history for the better. In modern times, American government inevitably needed to expand (foreign policy after Pearl Harbor). It would be naïve to believe that we could dial back the federal government’s authority to the extent of the Founder’s time.
What must occur, however, is for Americans to acknowledge the consequences of giving more and more responsibility to Washington – viewing it in a historical context. America’s founding was surrounded by the belief that the individual is sovereign and should not be controlled by a government entity. How did we concede this amount of authority?
This is a trend that began during FDR’s presidency and was cemented as soldiers returned home from World War II. Prior to the war, most Americans did not pay an income tax, for example (Today in Mississippi, driving a hybrid comes with a $75 tax fee because Uncle Sam misses your tax dollars on gas). State and local government was the perceived law of the land – the federal government was bound to limited action.
Upon returning from the war, there was shift in perception of government responsibility. FDR’s new deal, now championed by Truman along with his own agenda, created higher expectations for Washington to improve American lives.
Today, this seems like a fairly-normal concept: America’s federal government, with the county’s great wealth and social programs, is the arbitrator of social and economic justice. Certainly, positive and beneficial results have come from the government’s newfound responsibility. One must consider the power needed to conduct such change throughout a country and the means by which it is achieved. The Founders had experienced government overreach and the harms it inflicted on their people. As a result, they founded this American experiment on one idea: individual liberty.
Throughout history, governments were formed to provide people with security and resources. They were all prone to one error: human error. Greed, corruption and exploitation is inescapable when placing human beings in charge of other humans.
Typically, if you ask young American’s if they trust the government, their answer is no – regardless of political affiliation. The country has experienced political scandals and corruption throughout its history. With this in mind, why do people want to give the federal government additional authority?
In the 2016 election, either candidate’s victory was going to result in half of the country in turmoil. Although that seems a bit exaggerated, American presidents have the authority to change quite a lot in the country. One person, no matter who they are, should not inflict their will upon millions of individuals. They have the ability to act in this manner because years of unconstitutional precedents has allowed it.
At a time when our country lacks unification, we should all look at the root of the problem. I believe it stems from the amount of power in the nation’s capital. For those that believe the federal government should be given even more authority: what if someone you absolutely detest wins the presidential election? The power that you willingly conceded to your favorable president/congress will transfer to the next in line, no matter how good or bad. This is not a call for anarchy. It is a call to put the people back in power.
This issue does not have to be seen in “black or white” terms; gray areas do exist. Let’s find out which government responsibilities can be held at the local or state level. Sometimes we may need the federal government to intervene (civil rights), but this should be taken with caution. When we become so polarized we cannot find middle ground, people lose sight of what is important.
If this trend does not slow down or end, it is possible America will find itself in a situation that it cannot get itself out of. Both political parties are responsible for the toxic discourse in our nation – do not let people exploit you for their own political gain.
History, especially American history, shows that some politicians will do/say just about anything to maintain or advance their agenda (Southern demagogue’s exploiting white people’s fears which fueled the events leading to the Civil War and the rampant political exploitation during the age of McCarthyism are great examples). Half of the country should not be torn in two after each election and this can be changed by placing the power back into the hands of the people.