Comic Rodney Dangerfield made a career out of enumerating the manifold ways in which – as he put it ungrammatically but colorfully – he didn’t “get no respect.” Today, America has a problem: An increasing number of its citizens feel the same way when it comes to their government. Unlike Dangerfield, they’re not joking.
This isn’t just about the partisan activists on the left or right. It’s about an ever-growing sense on the part of regular Americans that their government isn’t just clueless about their priorities and the realities of their lives; worse, they’re beginning to believe that elected officials hold them and their views in outright contempt.
Normal Americans have been cutting back, as they struggle through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. How did Washington respond? By going on an unprecedented spending spree, assembling a behemoth $787 billion dollar package that rewarded a host of (Democratic) special interests. Despite some initial misgivings most Americans went along with the plan, after the new President insisted that the deficit-busting package had to be passed quickly to ensure that the economy wouldn’t worsen. Then employment surged up anyway, well past the 8% peak the President had projected. Those who had been willing to believe that government spending might help the economy if funds were rapidly and widely disseminated found, to their disgust, that only $150 billion of the total has been disbursed.
Worse, the public has learned of outrageous abuses of taxpayer-supplied money. US Senator Tom Coburn has identified $55 billion in wasteful projects. The Boston Herald has reported that stimulus money was sent to 4000 convicts in prisons nationwide. The AP uncovered $15 million being spent on a Montana immigration checkpoint that sees about three travelers daily, even as the needs of the busiest Texas checkpoints remain unaddressed. And there’s much, much more. Who wouldn’t be angry at such shameless displays of government waste and politically-motivated misallocation of taxpayer money? It’s insulting for citizens to be treated as nothing more than piggy banks for fat, happy politicians running an inefficient, greedy government.