CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Our country is too large to get along without working together. The Founding Fathers knew this. It is a strange irony that tea partiers embrace the founders and, at the same time, condemn the government that the founders knew was necessary. Consider the following.
The financial industry is able to manage money in ways that may be productive. But the industry is operated by humans, complete with all their weaknesses. The savings & loan meltdown of the 1980s and the Wall Street breakdown of 2008 were caused by combinations of corporate greed and incompetence. What was missing, and what would have prevented these disasters, was regulation of the industry. Who will devise and enforce such regulations, if not the people, in an organized fashion, acting as a government?
Hate the high price of gas? Poorly regulated Wall Street speculators have added at least $1.20 to the cost of a gallon, according to economic experts. If not the government, who is to rein them in?
If it is true that private industry can accomplish all things more efficiently than the public sector, why are private military contractors paid triple the wages of GIs to deliver supplies, prepare meals and build showers for our troops in the field? Why are private security personnel preferred over U.S. Marines, and paid far more than the troops, to provide security for U.S. diplomats? The practice began under Bush and Cheney as a payoff to business interests. It is both costly and unwise, as private firms' employees operate minus the chain of command that defines our military troops.
Compare the cost of tuition at public and private colleges and universities. What would the world look like if all universities were operated minus any government support? They would look like schools only for the well-to-do, as they typically did prior to World War II.
Public elementary and high schools, financed by our property taxes, educated the greatest generation. There is a belief, mistaken in my view, that private schools provide superior education compared to public schools. That notion seems to be supported by the superior average ACT scores of private school students. What is lacking in that analysis is that private schools are not obligated to educate intellectually and behaviorally disabled students. In fact, the better achieving public school students do just as well on standardized tests as do the private school students.
One may ask what percentage of privately operated hospital costs go to advertising. Has an advertisement ever contributed to patient care? By comparison, Veterans Administration hospitals get along more efficiently without advertising.
Would we be able to enjoy our national parks if they were privately operated? I recently purchased a lifetime membership to all our national parks, for $10. Our taxes subsidized that. We all pay a bit more so that we all may enjoy such advantages. What would that lifetime pass have cost, if our parks were all operated privately? The answer may be difficult to calculate, but an indication may the cost of membership to a private country club, for a single year.
The United States is too big to do without government. The pledge to never raise taxes, which has been signed by many members of Congress and is especially prized by Republicans, is an example of awesome irresponsibility. To sign it means that in time of war or national disaster, we should never raise taxes. Anyone who signs it is unfit to hold office.
Wyatt, a Gazette contributing columnist, is a professor at Marshall University.