11/29/2012 09:11 am ET Updated Jan 29, 2013

Made in America

We've just gone through an election where the discussion was centered exactly where the voices of greed and anger wanted it to be: on their crybaby need to shrink the size of American government. To methodically eviscerate, program by program, its power and its mission till ultimately our government would no longer be capable of caring for its people or governing responsibly. And if it turned out it was also incapable of regulating and inhibiting bad behavior by predatory oil companies and billionaires, so much the better!

Who gave the rich and powerful -- not to mention angry -- conservatives the right to set both the agenda and the topic of discussion for America's civil intercourse? And who decided they were allowed to purchase outright the entire American political process, as they attempted to do this last election? Happily, there were a lot of votes they couldn't buy. And a lot of discerning voters they couldn't instruct on what to believe. But they made such a racket clamoring for their negative agenda, the media seemed unable to hear or discern the quieter voices engaged in the process.

Well, as one of those quieter voices, let me give a rousing cheer for a government large enough to care for its citizens and maintain a safety net under their feet. A government that will help pick them up when they fall, and give them a hand when they need it -- without resentment or harsh judgments. Obviously a government can't do everything for its people, nor should it even try. But there's so much it can accomplish -- so much that needs to be accomplished -- we never have to worry about running out of things for it to do. We could clean up our air, free students from lifelong debt, bring undocumented immigrants in from the cold, salvage more homes from the clutches of the banks, care for our seniors, fix our broken health care system, protect consumers, repair storm ravaged communities and make college more accessible. We could do all that if we didn't have the Republican Party, guided by the selfishness and obscene wealth of its prime supporters and fueled by the zealotry of its Tea Party fanatics, standing in front of progress like a brick wall straddling a train track.

Which government would you prefer? One that Republicans and their wealthy backers would have us strip down to bare essentials, or one that is worthy of the ideals voiced by our founders and our greatest leaders?

Most of all, we need a government as big as our idea of America. If our vision is guided by those who are small-minded, petty and grasping, we will forge a government that reflects their mediocrity of spirit. If we see ourselves having a moral obligation to share our prosperity and watch over others, we become big enough to rescue Europe from the Nazis and powerful enough to rescue a single mother and her children from the spiraling grip of poverty.

America has always been bigger than the people who lead her, though there are many now who seek to dampen her grandiosity, reduce her generosity, and deny her moral obligation to care for those less fortunate. Any student of history knows a government so painfully insignificant and uninspired was never intended for an America as great as the one we were given as our birthright.

Not only does America need a big government, she needs a government strong enough to stand up to this raucous horde of complainers who deny anything they don't agree with: global warming, the physical consequences of rape, the theory of evolution, the equality of women, the need for the wealthy to pay taxes. They deny everything except the dangers of living in a big scary world. Which is why we spend more than half the country's wealth on our military machine, sucking the lifeblood from budgets that would otherwise go to educate our children, operate our trains, build our cities, run our parks, and care for our veterans.

The Republicans and the right-wing fanatics have kept us trapped in time like flies in amber. We're fated to forever re-negotiate gains made 50 years ago. That's why, today, we're still fighting for racial equality, the right to vote, the separation of state and church, and a woman's right to choose. And, if we allow these self-righteous misanthropes to continue their obstruction, the same thing will happen with Obamacare, leaving us to spend the next 50 years fighting for its survival.

So, here's my vote for an American government big enough to help create and protect opportunity for all, and to ensure no one segment of the population gets more than its fair share. A government unapologetically magnanimous in meeting the needs of its citizens. A government as well intentioned and self-sacrificing as those World War Two soldiers who made up the greatest generation.

Anything less...well, just wouldn't be American.