The year before I was born, my dad built his first home. It was a labor of love. He was neither an architect nor a gifted carpenter, but he invested more time, energy, and heart into that home than a decade’s worth of experience could buy.
My family moved away from that home when I was 15 years old, but it always held a special place in Dad’s heart. He could never bring himself to sell it, and actually had the hope of some day returning. Unfortunately, the home bore the burden of years of neglect, but once he retired, he was determined to fix it up.
A week into his efforts, my wife Shirley and I stopped by to see how he was coming along. As we arrived, our eyes glanced over the old structure for a moment before we turned and smiled at one another. There sat the house – the same as it had been – the front porch rails rotted, paint peeling from every surface, selected window panes cracked, and the yard still a mess.
We walked behind the house looking for Dad. As we rounded the corner, we saw the old pump house that sat at the back of the property where we used to draw water from a well. City water had rendered the small structure obsolete years before, so it served no particular use other than to be an eyesore. But there beside the pump house we saw my dad, paintbrush in hand and a huge grin on his face. The pump house had been freshly coated in white paint and his smile seemed to ask the question, “Doesn’t it look great?”
At the time, I remember smiling. Dad was so overwhelmed by all the needs of the house that it made him feel good to accomplish something small, even if it did not cure the problem. Ever since that time, when Shirley and I face a challenge, we remind ourselves of the need to solve the problem and not to just “paint the pump house.”
Today, many Americans see a government wildly out of balance. The Supreme Court has overturned democratically-decided state laws and attempted to restrain free exercise of religion. Executive actions have bucked the democratic process and undermined the Constitution of the United States. The government has increasingly prodded its way into the daily lives of average Americans in the form of taxes, healthcare, and government regulations. It’s overwhelming.
From a big picture, many would say – and I agree – that we need to restore government to its proper function in our lives. We inherited a nation that was built on the belief that government is not the answer – people are. Government works best when it is protecting people’s rights, not protecting people from themselves.
Today, I think many Americans look around and see the country they love in a state of disarray, as if the very foundations that our forefathers laid out has begun to be chipped away, or abandoned completely. To restore our nation to those core beliefs is not only overwhelming, but at times seems downright impossible. The efforts of many government leaders seem more like “painting the pump house” than actually tackling the real problem.
As I thought back on Dad and the pump house recently, I realized that maybe there was more truth to his theory than I thought at the time. In fact, I agree with him in many ways. You see, sometimes when we are so overwhelmed by the magnitude of a problem, we just need to roll up our sleeves and get started. To fix one problem. To accomplish one meaningful task, instead of sitting on our hands bemoaning the current state of affairs. Sometimes it’s the small things that give us that spark – that renewed hope – that we need to move forward to bigger, harder tasks.
As a nation, we have some tough choices to make. We can look at our problems, overwhelmed and discouraged. We can choose to just be frustrated and do nothing. Or we can roll up our sleeves, and take practical steps — even if they are small ones — to begin to shift the balance of government back where it belongs: with the people.
How do we do that? We have a lot of opportunities. We need to scrap the current, complex, unworkable tax code and start over. We need to begin weeding out one by one unnecessary, overly burdensome regulations and lifting the weight of government bureaucracy off the shoulders of our small businesses, entrepreneurs, and manufacturers. We need to slash duplicative government programs. We need to prioritize providing for our men and women in uniform and the natural security of this country over spending for the Internal Revenue Service and Environmental Protection Agency. We need to enforce our immigration laws, and secure the border once and for all. We need to make each Member of Congress personally accountable for passing a budget every year. We need to require Congress to vote on all new major regulations before they are enforced on citizens and businesses.
All of these are actions for which I have introduced or supported legislation in Congress and have continued to fight for. They are all solutions that begin to restore the balance in government, tipping the scale away from bureaucrats and back towards American families, small businesses, and individual citizens. None of these steps by themselves will restore our government to its proper balance — just like my dad couldn’t fix up our old house with a single stroke of the hammer, or coat of paint. Together, though, these action steps will move us closer, one brick, one nail, one board at a time, to restoring this country we love.
Randy Forbes represents Virginia’s Fourth District in Congress.