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The Proper Aim of Government

President Eisenhower 1959

In President Eisenhower’s message to Congress in January 14th, 1954 he declared:

The human problems of individual citizens are a proper and important concern of our government. One such problem that faces every individual is the provision of economic security for his old age and economic security for his family in the event of death. To help individuals provide for the security  – to reduce both the fear and the incidence of destitution to a minimum – to promote the confidence of every individual in the future – these are the proper aims of all levels of government, including the Federal Government.

How odd it is to read these words from a Republican President and then read the headlines of a Democratic President hosting business leaders and CEOs to discuss problems that corporations may face in the event of looming automatic budget cuts.

By now the strategies and methodologies of using natural disasters to push through public policy is familiar to most readers – especially readers familiar with Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine: The rise of Disaster Capitalism.  The ubiquitous use of the term “Fiscal Cliff”  by the media serves to frame and constrain public discussion and debate based not on the exigencies of a natural disaster but one that is contrived and man-made.  Rarely will one hear the viewpoint that there is no “Fiscal Cliff,” that it is a manufactured event aimed at creating a sense of urgency that must be dealt with in a speedy and inexact (unjust) manner. Those viewpoints exist, but they cannot penetrate the corporate main stream media censors. Those viewpoints can be found in the writings of economist like Richard Wolff, Michael Hudson and others, but they do not receive wide exposure, they remain on the margins outside the space where public discourse can influence policy. Discussion is constrained within the narrow parameters acceptable to those in power.

While Democratic principles are being undermined by economic policy, discussions focus on whether additional Federal revenue should come from higher tax rates or closing of  loop holes and deductions. It is the election horse race mentality all over again; the spectacle, the salacious, the trivial, anything to conceal more basic fundamental problems posed to individuals in an era of ever decreasing economic security. The issues raised by the Occupy movement are treated as ephemera.  A wide-eyed look at the evisceration of economic means of existence for millions of fellow citizens occurring right before us seems to be too painful to bear. It is better to distract, entertain, and deflect attention to less discomforting subjects.

The temporal distance between Eisenhower and Obama is little over a half century but how lost seems the language and concern over the individual. Margaret Thatcher once famously declared that society does not exist, only individuals are real – which of course is ridiculous, but tolerable if only our government would treat the economic well being of individual people, and not corporations as its proper aim.



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