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Andy Schmookler: Bob Goodlatte’s bogus ‘big government’ theme

There’s too much dishonesty in American politics these days, and it’s disabling us from navigating our way into a successful future.

My opponent Bob Goodlatte is part of the problem, and one example of this is his major campaign theme that we Americans need him and his party to protect us from some threat from “big government.” This argument obscures the truth.

For one thing, Bob Goodlatte supports the very kind of big government that our founders most feared, the kind that tramples on those liberties enshrined in our Constitution.  He has backed detention of American citizens without trial, and searches without warrants. He proposed a measure to protect intellectual property that had to be withdrawn because it was an assault on free speech on the Internet.

And the rest of his argument is based on a distortion — the idea that the U.S. suffers from out-of-control government spending, which he keeps saying is 35 times what it was 50 years ago. By ignoring the major decline in the value of the dollar and the huge growth in the size of our economy, Mr. Goodlatte obscures what’s really true and important:

As a proportion of our national economy, the size of government has been rather constant for decades. The federal workforce has actually decreased since Ronald Reagan was President. The size of government in the U.S., per capita, is nearly the smallest among advanced democratic capitalist nations.

The issue isn’t how big government is but whom it’s serving.

When Goodlatte and other Republicans speak of excessive government spending, they’re never talking about bloated defense budgets that enrich government contractors, and that make the U.S. defense budget almost as great as the defense expenditures of all the other nations of the world combined.

The programs they want to cut are those that help average Americans.

And above all, they’re talking about weakening government’s ability to protect the public from corporations that are so mighty that only government can restrain their abuses of power. Do we really want prescription drugs to kill us, food and water and to poison us, or workers to get hurt or killed on the job?

The right size of government is whatever will best enable Americans to live the kinds of lives they want.  But to have a government that’s truly for the people and by the people, we cannot allow lies to defeat the truth.

Andy Schmookler is the Democratic nominee for Congress in Virginia’s Sixh District.