Rare are candidates who run for top spots in government so they can shrink their dominion. So when I hear we need smaller government from conservative candidates, I'm skeptical. It's a rare politician who goes about diminishing his or her hard-won territory so that others might share handily in the wealth.
Smaller government is not fairer government. It doesn't necessarily give back power to the people. In fact it may indeed be more powerful than larger government -- in doing what it deems right and excluding from its concern those who fail to fit its definition of worthy. Size does not determine the success or morality of government.
Small government can mean powerful people like lobbyist and conservative activist Grover Norquist strong-arming members of the U.S. Congress. NEVER should any representative of the people sign a pledge to NEVER vote to raise taxes, prohibiting them from changing policy in the service of their constituents and the country as a whole. Such a pledge, no matter how large or small the government, is a violation of the obligations of representatives to the people who elected them. It's bullying legislators to vote one way, and one way only, and as such is as despicable and dangerous as the bribing of federal officials. Is this what is meant by smaller government -- fewer people telling our public representatives what they must do - or else?
What good is a government, big or small, that does not represent the people? It is the starkest of contradictions to what our forebears and peers have fought to protect. Who benefits when women and minorities remain underrepresented in the leadership of that government and when the poor, elderly and disabled are deceived into believing that the extraordinarily wealthy among us need the lion's share of our nation's treasure? Is this a benefit of small government?
What kind of "leader" advocates that elderly people financially strapped from years of working multiple jobs to make ends meet for their families will actually benefit from vouchers to give more money to insurance companies growing ever more proficient at denying or limiting services?
Is this the best "small government" advocates can envision as protection of the vulnerable among us? Or is it small minds that we're really dealing with who know they and their mothers and fathers will be fine and so crassly leave the rest of us to fend for ourselves?
And what of children? Which candidate speaks of them except in passing? What will small government take from them? What will happen to the over 23 percent of children in the United States living in poverty, 400,000 in foster care, and children of the financially hard-hit shrinking middle class and poor families seeking quality education? Is it a hand up we will give them or a slap down?
The mindless mantra of small government amounts to nothing if even more children wind up hungry and homeless on the streets - if those needing our help finding successful careers or even steady jobs get the backs of our collective hands. Smart spending is what we need and creative ideas rather than simple-minded solutions that sound good but destroy our hard-won social fabric.
No one should want an inept large government, but how much better is a harsh, crass and craven small one? It isn't size that makes a government great. It's the guiding principles of that government and the efforts it expends to apply them that determine its worth.
In America, that means creating jobs in hard times for the most financially threatened so families thrive and our youth have a chance to lead productive lives. It means protecting the innocent and vulnerable, hard-working majority from an indifferent, greedy, and unprecedentedly wealthy minority. And in the process, protecting the rights of all.