We're All in This Together

One key tenet of modern conservatism is that you’re on your own. Conservatives fought Social Security because retirement should not be a public responsibility. If you fall on hard times, there’s nothing anyone else can do.

Hurricane_Harvey_300.jpgThe United States stands alone in its lack of universal healthcare because of the conservative insistence that medical care is no one’s problem but your own, no matter how much that policy costs in money or lives. Fifty years of attacks on unions, national parks and forests, and anything else that implies shared interests across society have made our lives harder and less secure.

Sometimes it takes a natural disaster to remind us that we’re not as self-sufficient as we sometimes hope. Yes, it’s amazing to watch the volunteers and local first responders rescue thousands from their flooded homes. It’s inspiring to hear the interviews with people who have lost everything but still believe themselves blessed. Every private donation — corporate or individual — makes us want to wave the flag with pride. But as in awe as we may be at the resilience of the human spirit, getting Texas back up on its feet will require a scale of effort that can only be accomplished with the aide of a large and capable federal government.

Texas is a state that sometimes seems only to resent Washington, but it will still be the beneficiary of billions and billions of dollars in federal relief. Representatives who vote against disaster relief for other parts of the country are assembling aid packages to help their own constituents. They know: with the help of the federal government, Houston and the rest of the Texas coast will more quickly return to productive, regular life. Sometimes government action is required.

A hurricane and flood are dramatic, but they’re not in substance much different from the slow motion disasters American working people have endured for the last 30 years. As floodwaters have shut-down huge swaths of Texas, economic tides have devastated whole regions of the country. We can imagine that the markets and rugged individualism are all that is necessary to revive those places, but just as the heroic and inspiring individuals of Texas can only accomplish so much, the heroic individuals of cities and towns being left behind are going to need active, involved, effective government to return to normalcy.

The  people of Maine and South Dakota and California are going to help pay for the revival of Texas. The people of Texas will someday pay to feed rescuers when a string of tornados tears across the plains of Kansas. The American people do many different things to take care of each other. We give to charity, we volunteer in our communities, we check on our elderly neighbors. Government is one of the tools we have, and we should not be afraid to use it.

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The People's House Project