By Dan Pool
About two weeks ago a member of the Progress staff had an impromptu discussion at a convenience store. The reader suggested we needed a front page story every week about how “the government is %&*$ing us.”
We receive some variation of this editorial request often – especially if you count the e-mail and social media messages.
Anti-government rhetoric is at level not seen since some fellows dressed up as Indians and threw a load of tea in the ocean. You hear “revolution” used in political forums frequently.
Yet, when you asked how “government is %&*$ing us,” you rarely get an exact answer.
There are bunch of issues that have people stirred up -- immigrants, fears of firearm restrictions and a genuine hatred of the president.
Much of the animosity goes deeper than differences of opinion, with a belief that politicians in Washington, Atlanta and Pickens County are intentionally seeking to harm us. Locally this growing distrust could be spotted last week on social media. When the county commissioners decided to drop efforts to create a “special event ordinance,” several online comments didn’t commend them for being receptive to public opinion but speculated they were trying to sneak it into creation by another route.
On the national and state level, it’s often hard to pinpoint what effect the government actually has on your daily life. When you go about your business this week is there something you must do differently or can’t do because of the government?
Taxes have always been there and aren’t as high now as they have been at some points in our history; Obamacare has hit some individuals in their wallets but also helped some people get insurance who had never had it. While there is a lot of rhetoric about taking our guns, there are no efforts proposed in Georgia.
One wonders if the government gets a lion’s share of the blame for the economy. Rightly or wrongly they are faulted for low pay and lack of job growth. Studies show that over the past decade, the very rich became super rich, while the lower and middle class stayed the same, which surely builds frustration. But it’s hard to pin this growing inequality on the government. And the idea that someone different in the White House would change this is farfetched.
The government may also get faulted for nuts who go on killing sprees. Or take the heat from parents upset with their child’s school experience.
I thought of the many anti-government comments last Thursday when I spent the morning at a joint meeting of newspaper folks and state legislators representing northwest Georgia. It included State Rep. Rick Jasperse, who represents Pickens County, and State Senator Charlie Bethel, who represents the western part of this county in his district, plus their fellow legislators who cover the northern corner of our state.
I didn’t feel like anyone in the room was out to %&*$ us. Obviously in a room full of reporters, no one announced their agenda is to steal a bunch of money, get some free trips and find their cousin a cushy job.
In fact I was impressed by the depth of the topics the state legislature will tackle this year.
Just a few of the issues the northwest Georgia cadre has in their sights:
• Legislation to make it harder for pills mills to dish out painkillers and other narcotics.
• Looking at ways to help lower-income grandparents raise their grandkids when the parents are unable to. This may also benefit taxpayers by reducing dependence on foster care.
• Looking at how to best fund the schools.
• And to show these legislators are not afraid to buck the establishment, one had on his agenda looking at law enforcement’s ability to seize money and possessions.
Consider also at the county, school board and state level, most of these people work part time for little pay (many of the local elected officials make about $50 per meeting and meet only once a month, yet take calls any time).
Keep in mind there are politicians and then there are public servants. Make sure you can tell them apart.