One of America's great debates spins like a top around one question: Who is able to take care of the least amongst us best -- government or the private sector?
The New Deal and Great Society reshaped America's playing field to be more level for all Americans, not just white America. They created a social safety net, and put programs into place to lift millions of Americans out of poverty, provide better education, and open up the doors to higher education to millions who would never have been able to afford it.
The government has provided medical care and assistance in retirement to our working men and women.
Imperfect as it is, the government has become a reasonable overall protector of the food supply, transportation safety, and of the balanced management of our natural resources.
It has spent billions to invest in new ideas like this Internet that have made America's corporates trillions on R&D that they could never have hoped to invest in on their own.
After the Great Depression, government tilted away from the pre-Hoover days where the Robber Barons, the 1 percent of industrialized America, dominated the political system.
The Tea Party and its radical John Birch Libertarian backers like the Koch Brothers, are the silver-spoon children of the Robber Barons, those 19th century industrialists who ruled America before the Great Depression. They hate the New Deal and the Great Society. They want their power back.
The Kochs, Coors, DeVos, and a handful of other 1 percent-ers have used their billions over 35 years to terraform the political landscape to condition millions of Americans into believing that removing the government, the one protection from them, these most rapacious capitalists, is in the public interest. They preach personal accountability. They preach old-timey religious charity.
They seek a return to the 19th century system of patrician public works projects and poor houses, of obligation of the poor to religious institutions which keep them docile and under the control of the 1 percent whose donations to those churches buy very undemocratic influence over the fate of millions.
History favors the 1 percent. Pick a name: Plebes. Commoners. Working Man. Throughout the ages, contain the many, and the few become enormously wealthy and powerful.
The majority of humanity has lived more as We the Sheeple than We the People.
That the 1 percent tapped the religious Right to march for them is no surprise either. Religion has always played a very central role in containing and pacifying the working classes.
Be it the Roman's vengeful gods or Medieval monarchs' use of the church to promise a better life in the hereafter, the fear of the wrath of unseen powers, and praise for their periodic generosity, or the promise of a blissful existence in an afterlife are candy with which the rich lure the common person into their car and take them for a ride.
Charity, the handing out of food or clothing, the provision of a bit of shelter to those who don't have it, the construction of a new temple or public building have kept the 99 percent content with their lot. In fact, most become grateful, loyal followers not only for their lifetime, but for generations.
Provide however meager a social safety net, and people will organize and support the ambitions of those who exploit them, including fighting and dying to protect the power of the elites, all the while fervently chanting, praying or screaming whatever mantra those who control the social order of that time find useful to keep the populace docile, and content with their production and consumption to the benefit of the few.
As we have seen in all three major American depression/recessions, when the going gets tough, the rich hoard capital, cut jobs and inflict more pain on the working person. Big "C" charity comes to a halt in the private sector, but public works projects, even with slow starts, get a lot of people working in a stalled economy.
Over the millennia, little "c" charity evolved into systems where the working and the poor have had to help each other through donations of food, clothing, and money, because the patricians of a culture fail to build social and political systems that provide an adequate social safety net for the majority.
Even the nobility of private citizen-to-citizen outreach, though, has its limits. The private sector is ill-equipped to provide, particularly in times of crisis.
The most effective charity programs and NGO groups on their best day can only martial a fraction of the resources that governments can bring to bear in an emergency. Even though many private groups take the lead on the ground in a crisis, they rely heavily on government assistance, often in the form of military logistical aid, to organize, transport, and deploy resources.
This American democracy has been a work in progress, fraught with inconsistencies, but with noble intent.
The Founding Fathers "talked the talk." Freedom. Equality. Democracy.. These new humanist principles worked well for white European settlers and immigrants' families who lost the stigma of their accent of origin. They were hollow words, though, to generations of slaves, indentured servants, native Americans pushed off their lands, women, LGBT citizens hiding in the shadows, and immigrants, particularly of color, who found gateways to opportunity closed and chained at the ghettos of their American dream.
These retools of American democracy "walked the walk." Evolutionary idea: The People, by way of their government, took care of the People. The government slowly stopped being the instrument of the 1 percent's political control and became over 40 years, the guardian of the majority, protecting us from completely unfettered capitalism, and trying to correct social injustices woven into the fabric of these United States since their founding.
Every time that Americans have bought into the notion that the private sector can care for all of us better than the government, the 99 percent have been ripped off by the 1 percent in world societies throughout history.
Charity is a lovely, seemingly noble, illusion. When crisis strikes, or the greed of a few cause real damage to society, the only real safety net, and protection from the 1 percent's influence that Americans have comes from their Uncle Sam.
My shiny two.