Los Angeles Times
September 19, 2001
by Ronald Brownstein
At the moment the first fireball seared the crystalline Manhattan sky last week, the entire impulse to distrust government that has become so central to U.S. politics seemed instantly anachronistic.
The erosion of faith in the federal government has been probably the most profound change in America’s political landscape over the last generation.
Yet given the critical responsibility of safeguarding the skies, private companies apparently have cut corners and cut costs as they inevitably balanced concern about the general welfare with their need to generate a profit. Now, the widespread assumption is that the federal government, unconcerned with profit, will provide a more thorough and effective defense against hijackings or bombings.
The lesson is twofold. While government indeed can learn about efficiency from the best businesses, some public services–education comes to mind–are still best provided by public institutions that don’t need to turn a profit. And while U.S. industry has proved brilliant at creating wealth and inspiring innovation, it’s naive (or disingenuous) to expect private companies to operate entirely in the public interest.
It’s simply misguided to see the federal government as something divisible from America, when it is in fact the tool through which we meet collectively the challenges that we can’t handle alone. It obscures that basic truth to suggest we must choose between trusting government or the people. “In time of crisis,” notes Reed (Bruce Reed, chief domestic policy advisor under President Clinton), “we realize that the people and government are one and the same.” The tragedy is that it took so much private pain to remind us that sometimes public actions through government aren’t the problem–they are the solution to our problems.
Comment: Public administration of universal health insurance? By the government? After all, it’s our government… our insurance… our health.