03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Reagan's Anti-Government Kool-Aid Has Poisoned Civil Public-Option Dialogue

You've no doubt heard the blustering calls to talk radio shows, both right and left.

A righty know-it-all will snort, "We don't need another government bureaucracy," or, "The government will bungle up health care like it messes up everything else."

Air America host Thom Hartmann had a great rhetorical question recently in reply to one of these indignant GOP all-government-is-bad know-nothings.

"What, your mail isn't being delivered?"

These blowhards have swallowed the Kool-Aid. And Ronald Reagan was the guy who dressed up as a giant pitcher and convinced them do it.

In these days when a public option and government for health insurance seems increasingly likely, misinformed bedrock ideological assumptions by many righties has poured gas on the smoldering, contentious national debate, largely rendering it incivil.

Reagan's now-famous idiotic and simplistic bromides about government are the right's articles of faith in the current health-care debate, to wit:

"Government's not the solution to our problems, it is the problem." And the other I-hate-government Reaganism: The "most terrifying words in the English language are 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'" Those GOP articles of faith, however, probably don't resonate with a whole lot of Katrina victims.

And they don't resonate, either, in most Western democracies, where the government and "bureaucrats" are not seen as worthless. In France, in fact (brace yourselves, righties, here it comes) its public schools' crème de la crème are often selected at an early age to eventually work in government service.

But hatred and mistrust of the government - any government - is now part of the DNA of many conservatives - thanks largely to Reagan, The Great Communicator (of Misinformation.)

One listener to progressive Hartmann's radio show the other day has worked for the federal government for 20 years. She was furious, she said, "at people constantly insulting those of us who work for the government."

Can you blame her?

I lived outside the U.S. for several years, in Canada. Not only do Canadians not hate their government, they actually trust it - well, its employees, at least. Going to a Canadian or provincial government office is, in general, quite a pleasant affair. People are polite - on both sides of the desk.

(It was a bit of a shocker, though, the first time this Americain went into a Quebec DMV office in French-speaking and Catholic Montreal - and saw a crucifix displayed on the wall!).

So, as long as those who are drunk on the Reagan Kool-Aid continue to take cheap and mostly unwarranted shots at our government, civil discourse on health care and many important issues to all of us will continue to be difficult if not impossible. As Rep. Barney Frank said, you can't argue with a table.

Do try to be kind to government employees when you meet them. Their jobs can't be easy - after all, some of the people they deal with are the same right-wing ideologues raised on Reagan and Rush anti-government hate talk.