Commentary

Now is the time to remember the good our government does for us | Opinion

May 8, 2022 7:00 am

United States flags blow in the wind. Credit: Getty Images.

With higher gas prices, rising food costs and near record inflation as we emerge from the worst pandemic in a 100 years, many of us may be struggling to make ends meet or move forward in any way — finding it difficult to see what government is doing to make our lives better.

But as tough as things might be, let us try to remember the good our government provides in many aspects of our daily lives.

While the government can’t do everything, there are many things it does, and does well.

The preamble to the Constitution reminds us of the primary functions our government should do for us: “Form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

Subsequent articles and amendments, as the nation has come of age, have guided just how the federal and state governments should go about doing those things outlined in the preamble.

During these difficult times, along with hyper-partisanship and divisive politics in state governments and in Congress, it is easy to forget the good things that are getting done every day.

There are many, many examples. Big and small.

Big ones

Here are some big ones.

Despite the sickness and death that occurred during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, it was the government that enabled the development of a vaccine to be fast-tracked. It was the government that made testing and the vaccines available, whether citizens chose to take them or not.

As COVID was impacting and devastating many aspects of our daily lives, it was the government that passed the historic $2.2 trillion CARES Act, a much-needed economic stimulus package that included the PPP program for small businesses, financial relief for other industry sectors, cash payments to stabilize state/local budgets, and cash payments to individuals.

It was the government that passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that provided additional help: Increases in tax-credits for childcare, earned income tax credits, increases and extension in unemployment checks, assistance in health care insurance support, and rental and emergency housing assistance for urban, rural, tribal, and homeless populations.

Even the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, was expanded, providing access to health care for millions more Americans.

As we were besieged with COVID, Congress still managed to pass a historic bipartisan infrastructure bill.

This bill is a massive investment for repairing and building our roads and bridges, improving transportation options for millions of Americans while reducing greenhouse emissions, upgrading the nation’s airports and ports, expanding and improving rail services.

As we face a future of more cyber warfare, there are investments to improve our power infrastructure to not only deliver clean energy, but to implement measures to make our power infrastructure more resilient against the impacts of cyber-attacks.

Plus, even closer to home, major investments will be made to deliver clean water to millions of American families by eliminating lead service pipes that are currently being used in too many communities.

Broadband

In this technologically driven information age, billions of dollars are also included to ensure that all Americans have access to reliable broadband high-speed Internet, which is critically important when it comes to doing our jobs, online school learning, accessing healthcare services and just staying connected.

The need for Americans, especially in disadvantaged and underserved communities, to have reliable internet connectivity became abundantly clear as we struggled to live through the surges of the COVID pandemic.

In addition to addressing the many important areas above that will benefit most Americans, perhaps one of the greatest benefits to the bipartisan infrastructure bill will be the millions of quality and high-paying jobs that will be created.

Many of the benefits of the bipartisan infrastructure bill will occur over the many years ahead, and it may take a while for us to see how they directly impact our lives.

But we can readily remember other major bipartisan policies and legislation that have made our lives better. Much of it was fraught with bipartisan disagreement, stonewalling and obstruction. But elected officials manage to work together for measures to become law and benefit Americans.

We have only to think of the Medicare and Medicaid Act, the Social Security Act, Family Medical Leave Act, Minimum Wage (Fair Labor Standards) Act, American Disability Act, Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Act, and many other programs and benefits that improve our daily lives that, now, often go unnoticed and are taken for granted.

Those notable acts do not begin to address the many other governmental policies and programs that have been put in place to help farmers, small businesses, as well as major corporations.

National security

Not to mention maintaining our national security on multiple fronts in these unstable times.

When we look at what is occurring in other parts of the world, we have much to be thankful for.

So, while we often complain about what our government is not doing, how often do we pause and think about what it is doing for us each and every day?

There are voices that want us to believe that America and branches of our government at the state and national level are irretrievable broken, that good rational leaders need to be replaced by those who would undo and destroy rather than work to make things better.

It behooves us all to take inventory of where our lives are today, what we continue to need from our government and its leaders and determine our support accordingly.

Our federal and state governments are not broken. We must keep in mind all the good that is done in spite of what appears to be ongoing discord, ongoing dysfunction among some of its leaders.

This column was originally published by the Missouri Independent, an affiliate of the nonprofit States Newsroom network, which includes the Florida Phoenix.

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Janice Ellis
Janice Ellis

Janice Ellis has lived and worked in Missouri for more than three decades, analyzing educational, political, social and economic issues across race, ethnicity, age and socio-economic status. Her commentary has appeared in The Kansas City Star, community newspapers, on radio and now online. She is the author of two award-winning books: From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream (2018) and Shaping Public Opinion: How Real Advocacy Journalism™ Should be Practiced (2021). Ellis holds a Ph.D. in communication arts, and two Master of Arts degrees, one in communications arts and a second in political science, all from the University of Wisconsin.

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