floodedHouse-main_FullOne of the themes underlying this year’s waves of political protests — whether anti-tax, anti-Obama, anti-health care reform, whatever — is that government in all its forms should be abolished.

I have some Libertarian friends who consider it a bedrock principle that government never works under any circumstances, so the sooner we get rid of it and stop collecting taxes, the better. I have no doubt that they are sincere in their beliefs.

We have seen a milder variation of this anti-government viewpoint during the health care reform debate from Georgia congressmen like Reps. Tom Price and Paul Broun and Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson. They have strongly opposed proposals for a government-funded “public option” or similar form of federal health insurance program modeled on Medicare.

“As a physician, I can attest that nothing has had a greater negative effect on the delivery of health care than the federal government’s intrusion into medicine through Medicare,” said Price, who was an orthopedic surgeon before running for political office.

“I will not be a part of driving Americans to a government-run health care system that we can’t afford,” Isakson said.

The congressmen, like my Libertarian colleagues, are clear about it: Government has no role to play in helping its citizens.

As one Internet pundit expressed it: “The free market always can solve problems and produce what people need better than government.  There are no exceptions.”

I thought of these folks as Georgia was being inundated with a series of rainstorms that dropped a record amount of water on the northern part of the state, 20 inches or more in some counties.

The historic floods that overran the state and killed at least nine people were a leading story for the national media, which broadcast stark images of bridges and subdivisions under water, roads buried under muddy runoff, and schools that would not reopen for a long time.

There were heart-warming pictures as well of courageous emergency workers who piloted their boats through the most dangerous areas to rescue people from the rising waters.

Many of these rescue workers were government employees like police and firefighters whose salaries are paid with taxpayer funds. I didn’t hear any of the rescued flood victims protesting that government ought to keep its nose out of their affairs.

In Georgia, as in New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the situation was the same. When you’re standing on the roof of your house and the water is lapping at your feet, there isn’t much chance that the forces of the free market are going to magically come to your rescue. You’re not going to complain if some government-paid employee in a government-provided watercraft saves your life.

It is interesting to me that the same politicians who oppose the expenditure of government funds for health insurance were clamoring for boatloads of federal dollars to help the areas that were ravaged by the flooding.

Said Isakson: “I fully support the governor’s request for federal disaster assistance for communities in Georgia affected by these devastating storms and floods, and I hope the president will approve this request quickly.”

Said Chambliss: “There are many areas that are going to need a helping hand and it is imperative that the president approve this request.”

Even Price, who opposes government funds for a program like Medicare, wanted those taxpayer dollars: “Gov. Perdue has asked President Obama to expeditiously declare a major disaster in Georgia. Today, I, along with Georgia’s entire congressional delegation, sent a letter to the president in support of Gov.  Perdue’s request. It is essential that the appropriate resources get to where they are needed so the recovery process can begin.”

It’s one thing to have an abstract debate about the feasibility of eliminating taxes and government, but real life tends to be a lot messier.

In real life, people get sick and need medical care. They need roads to drive on, water that is safe to drink, and sometimes they even need to be rescued from floods.

I understand why people feel aggravated by the government. I feel the same way whenever I try to renew my driver’s license or pay my property taxes. As the flooding showed, however, there are times when we all need a helping hand that only government can provide.


A former reporter for The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Tom Crawford is the editor of Capitol Impact’s Georgia Report, an Internet news service.

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Tom Crawford

Tom Crawford

A former reporter for The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Tom Crawford is the editor of Capitol Impact’s Georgia Report, an Internet news service covering state government in Georgia.

14 Comments
  1. Terri Evans

    Tom, so glad to see you here. Who would our representatives be without their distinctive brand of hypocrisy? Perhaps they would be real people, in real life. As you said, in real life, people get sick. It’s one of the reasons, Rep. Alan Grayson is my new hero. Never dreamed I’d admire a Florida pol.

  2. Excellent observation, Tom. It gets to the point of the health care debate that remains largely unspoken by opponents — and that is that the uninsured and/or poor are undeserving of government (i.e. taxpayer) help. There is a large segment of the opposition that actually believes that most of the 50 million or so uninsured are voluntarily that way; that they can afford insurance but choose not to get it. Interesting too that Perdue and other Ga. GOP leaders have said out loud recently that they wished the feds would pick up even more of the disaster recovery costs (they already are fronting the state 90 percent) because Georgia’s budget can’t afford even 10 percent.

  3. Cliff Green

    Tom, welcome aboard! BUT wouldn’t it be fun to let right-wingers have their way for just a litte while? Then we could judge how well 50 air traffic control systems work, how 50 INTRA state highway systems would connect, how 50 armies would train and deploy, and where 50 air forces would fly. (I won’t mention 50 navies, because Nebraska and its neighbors would probably opt out.)
    In all seriousness, thanks for the hipocrisy lesson.

  4. This love fest is great but I “SINCERELY” hope that the author and commenters never have to walk into an emergency room and see your spouse lying on a gurney covered in blood from an automobile accident. The year that followed was a nightmare even though her health insurance through her nursing job at the VA paid for medical bills. The unseen expenses emptied all savings and my new self employed business suffered due to my devotion to getting her well. We went financially downhill fast and had to seek help elsewhere. When we approached the government we were not eligible for any assistance because we had a house in our name. In essence we were told to sell our house and they would help. If it were not for family and friends we would be in government housing now. So my point is the government is not always there when you need them. This will put a bad taste in your mouth for a health care with more government involved. I agree they need to get involved in disasters but there should also be short-term help for individual tragedies.

  5. You are correct — with a public option to provide health insurance for all citizens who need it, those kinds of situations could be avoided in the future.

  6. Terri Evans

    C. Smith. Sadly, it sounds as if you have and yours have suffered a great deal. I’m sorry you had to go through such trying times. Really. Still, I must point out that in your post, you stated that the VA paid your wife’s medical bills. I’m glad for this, but the VA actually IS government healthcare. A public option would provide for the short-term tragedies (at least health-related) that you mentioned. Further, with a public option in place, more “potential” patients might seek the preventative care that might preclude long-term, chronic, conditions.

  7. Ms. Evans I’m not sure what you mean by her VA employment insurance was government health care. She was an employee of the VA and health insurance was part of her wages. If she had been employeed by a private company that furnashed health insurance as part of their wages would that be government health care?

  8. Ms. Evans from this point on I will consider any contribution made by you as ridiculous and comment accordingly.
    If any one reads this please note dates.
    Tom are you implying that if a person carries insurance through their employer they will be eligible for “public option” government insurance also?

  9. CSmith, I’m confused. You’re daughter worked in a government system (the Veteran’s Administration, which includes healthcare as part of its program), but a government run healthcare system is necessarily a horrible thing?

    Current government healthcare systems (besides that offered by the VA, which is where CSmith’s daughter worked, but isn’t where she received her emergency treatment) include Medicare and Medicaid, and while I’m not an expert on the details of Medicare coverage I believe you have to be old to qualify. To qualify for Medicaid you have to be poor. Under current conditions, the middle class citizen who isn’t old can count on little government help in a healthcare crisis, in that they aren’t old and they aren’t poor. Until they get sick and spend all of their assets on healthcare. Then they’re poor.

    See? That is what many folks are working so hard to change.

    Of course free market is a good thing, as long as the customer is aware that there is a profit motive that isn’t necessarily in the customer’s best interest. And while the government option doesn’t include a profit motive, there is a public health motive (keeping the citizenry healthy keeps the country healthy). Additionally, stabilizing an out of control system that forces people without insurance into emergency rooms instead of a doctor’s office is wildly expensive for all of us and is causing the whole of health care to collapse. A very bad thing.

    Regarding the options in discussion, citizens choose private or public. For myself, I’d like the option currently lacking, to know that I can move to another state without losing my current, private coverage. Or that I can move to another state, cancel my current private coverage and pick up different private coverage, even though I have a pre-existing condition. Or not change my coverage at all, which is fast approaching the inability to manage if something doesn’t give. Or that I can have a public option. And in all cases I’d like to be able to work with my doctor to decide what’s in my best interest. Currently, my doctor makes a suggestion and the private health insurance, profit-motivated company CLERK makes the decision as to whether or not my doctor may proceed.

    And if FOX network and the hysterics who follow it would get out of the way, maybe the Obama administration could lead us to just such a system.

    To quote Mike Smith’s contribution: “There is a large segment of the opposition that actually believes that most of the 50 million or so uninsured are voluntarily that way; that they can afford insurance but choose not to get it,” I sadly share that a my brother is one of those people. Except he believes those uninsured citizens aren’t voluntarily that way, but it’s their FAULT that they are in that situation, and it’s an eat or be eaten world so too bad for them. He is one of a great many (FOX viewers) who feel that way. Right up until they lose their health insurance for circumstances out of their control, or endure some other “not their fault” trauma.

    That’s my politics for today. Now I’m exhausted. — Thanks!

  10. I agree that we should be able to edit after “submit” but I have no idea what you are talking about in your comments. It was my wife that was involved in a one car accident.

  11. Apologies for the relationship error. Got to typing and didn’t realize you had shared about your spouse, not your daughter. After pushing “submit,” though, I realized I inserted “You’re” for “Your” in the first sentence. I’m sure there are other errors, but that aside, I think my opinion was clear and to restate, private healthcare is bankrupting middle class America and having the OPTION to CHOOSE a government run insurance wouldn’t bother me a bit. You got your two cents, that’s mine. Again, sorry for the error. Please don’t take it personally.

    1. Meg, your brother sounds exactly like my brother, also a dedicated FOX fan and totally, completely, absolutely beloeves that those who don’t buy their own insurance also don’t deserve health care. After all, he worked hard all his life, now draws Social Security and is on Medicare, plus he bought one of the expensive Medicare Advantage plans.

      Except he didn’t plan to get cancer, and never thought he’d wind up in the doughnut hole and be completely unable to buy his pain and nausea medications, much less pay for the chemo drugs. His Democratic sister (me) bought them, as far my money went, but unfortunately, being a Democrat, I am not that well off. You know how we bleeding hearts are — we don’t handle our money the way we should.

      Sadly, he won’t be around to vote GOP in November as he does usually. Hospice says his time is shorter than that.

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