Commentary - Beware the Jabberwock: Tea Party and Small Government

Nov 12, 2010

Murray, KY – On November 2nd, Kentucky Republican and Tea Party flag-bearer Rand Paul won the Commonwealth's vacant U.S. Senate seat. The first-time candidate and Washington outsider championed small government in his campaign and emphasized businesses and entrepreneurs take a stronger role in job creation. Commentator Constance Alexander takes issue with this stance, citing herself as an example of the success of Government assistance.

"Government can't create jobs, only businessmen can Government can't create jobs, but entrepreneurs can." So sayeth Kentucky's senator elect, Rand Paul, on CNN the night of his election.

Well, Dr. Paul, you are forgetting something: Government does create jobs and, even more important, government creates opportunities and removes obstacles for people in the real world, including entrepreneurs. In an election night interview with Wolf Blitzer, you said, "There are no rich, there are no middle class, there are no poor, ," and I'm here to say you are wrong about that too. Those of us who were not born into wealthy families have sometimes relied on government to overcome barriers that - had we been waiting for help from a businessman or an entrepreneur -- we would still be struggling.

I am a case in point, a person who welcomes government help. For college, I attended a state-supported institution, a land-grant college, on a state scholarship. When I needed a student loan, it came through the government. Banks did not extend credit to students (especially those of the female persuasion.) We were considered to be a poor risk, I guess, instead of the country's hope for the future. I got a government loan to help with my education costs, and yes I paid it all back, with interest, less than a year after graduation.

While in college I worked on campus the maximum of twenty hours a week. To make extra cash, I also waitressed. I worked every summer, keeping a close tally of my pay to make sure I had enough to cover the costs not paid by my scholarship. I had no car, of course, no spring break in Florida, no Aqua-Buddha. Because my father was over 65 and I was a full-time undergraduate under 22, I received a small monthly stipend from Social Security. When my father died my junior year, the payment went up.

After graduation, I became a public school teacher, a government job. Had there not been a labor union, as guaranteed by law, I would have been paid less for doing the same work as a man, because there were many men at that time who felt it was their God-given right to make more money than women.

I am ever-grateful that women finally got the right to vote in 1920. It took an embarrassingly long time, considering the fact the U.S. is a democracy. Without the suffragettes and an amendment to the Constitution, we would still be marching.

As a woman, I believe Equal Opportunity laws have been crucial to me and to other women in the workforce. We cannot be discriminated against because of the color of our skin, our religion, our gender. Remember the days not so long ago when a married woman who got pregnant got fired> A routine question for women in job interviews used to be whether or not you planned to have children. Now that kind of question is illegal, thanks to government.

Serving in the military is a government job, a function that has largely been ignored in this election. Millions of young Americans are currently serving in the two wars we are some of them because they need jobs and hope opportunities like the G.I. Bill will help them get ahead when their tours of duty are up. If they are injured, it is the Veterans Administration, a government program, that provides free or low coast medical care. Where are the businessmen and entrepreneurs who would step into that breach if it were not for government?

As I understand it, Dr. Paul, it will be your job as a senator to represent all of us in Kentucky, not just the Tea Party people. I am not eager to hand the government (or its abolition) over to a group that is more Alice in Wonderland than Boston Tea Party. I fear the Tea Party is rampant with slithy toves and borogoves, bent on madness and mayhem, with you willingly in the role of Mad Hatter.

Constance Alexander is a writer in Murray, Kentucky. The views expressed in this commentary are those of the author and don't necessarily reflect the views of WKMS. If you have an opinion, interest or review you'd like to share with WKMS listeners, see guidelines on the commentaries page and send us an email.