In the 1990s, ABC TV’s Evening News ran more than 400 stories entitled “It’s Your Money.” Virtually all of them exposed ineffective or corrupt government expenditures.
“It’s Your Money” reflected and reinforced an assumption deeply embedded in American political culture. Ronald Reagan summed it up in his 1981 inaugural address: “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
These days, polls indicate that only 20 percent of Americans trust government to do what’s right “always” or “most of the time.”
A substantial majority of Americans, however, also believe government should play a major role in, among other things, responding to natural disasters, ensuring safe food and medicine, strengthening the economy, maintaining infrastructure, expanding access to healthcare, protecting the environment, handling threats to public health, and helping people get out of poverty.
Nonetheless, Republican politicians have turned up the rhetoric and voted against virtually all legislation in these areas sponsored by Democrats, unless they conclude it is in their political interest to get benefits for their constituents from the federal government, for which they can then take credit.
In 2013, Ron DeSantis, a first-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives, opposed federal aid for the New York region for damages caused by Hurricane Sandy. The bill, DeSantis declared, was a boondoggle, a manifestation of a “put it on a credit card mentality.” As governor of Florida, he has blasted proponents of global warming because they “typically use that as a pretext to do a bunch of left-wing stuff… We are not doing any left-wing stuff.”
In the wake of Hurricane Ian, DeSantis has changed his tune. President Biden, he declared, “said all hands on deck, that he wants to be helpful. He said, whatever you need, ask us.” Florida’s U.S. Senators, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, asked for “a robust and timely federal response, including through supplemental programs and funding… to rebuild critical infrastructure and public services capacity.”
A few days earlier, Sen. Scott (Rubio was absent) and all 16 Florida GOP members of the House of Representatives voted against legislation to fund the federal government through December 2022 that included $18.8 billion for FEMA to assist states with natural disasters. The bill, Scott explained, did not appropriate money for Hurricane Ian.
Passed by Congress in 2021, the Biden administration’s Infrastructure and Jobs Bill was supported by only 19 of 50 Republican Senators and 13 of 212 Republicans in the House. The legislation, which will not add to the federal deficit, allocates $1.2 trillion to upgrade, repair, or replace roads, bridges, railroads, public transportation, seaports, airports, lead pipes, and the power grid; expand access to broadband in rural areas and low-income neighborhoods; enhance water infrastructure in places suffering historic droughts; provide electric vehicle charging stations and electric school buses; and clean up superfund and brownfield sites, abandoned mines, antiquated oil and gas wells. ...