There is a popular fad making its rounds across the country. This fad is propagated by all types of folks, from business fat cats to rural farmers, and has been circulating for the better part of two or three decades. You will hear its message in city coffee shops and country diners. Its popularity is demonstrated in poll after poll. The trendy fad is simple: the U.S. federal government can't do anything right.
I want to take some time to refute this passing phase and bring to light a pretty impressive list of things the federal government has done right. Just as businesses in the private sector of the economy come and go, boom and bust, succeed and fail; the federal government functions in much the same way. Some acts of government have been utter failures, like the blank check known as the "War on Drugs" started during the Reagan administration. We hear about these all of the time, lately. But, there has been little discussion of the flip side of the coin. I want to tell you about some of the federal government's success stories because chances are, if I didn't, you wouldn't hear about them from anyone else. After all, if you believe in American exceptionalism, then there are obviously some things that you feel very proud of and chances are the government was behind some of them whether you are aware of that, or not.
One of the most remarkable government achievements of the past century comes courtesy of the National Institutes of Health. Through the N.I.H. and the endless hours of work and study from the nation's most brilliant scientists, the government was able to control once uncontrollable diseases, such as polio, cholera and smallpox. Government vaccination programs have reduced our risk of contracting a very lengthy list of diseases like tetanus and diphtheria by 95 percent.
In the 1950s, the Eisenhower administration began work on the Interstate Highway System. It was truly a beacon for the rest of the world; a one of a kind. It revolutionized the entire economy, making it easier to transport goods from city to city and back and forth from farming communities to cities. Goods produced in the Heartland could now make it to seaports bound for international markets far faster than before. Even conservative columnist George Will called the Interstate Highway System "the most successful public works program in the history of the world." Not to mention, it spawned private development, allowing for American businesses to thrive like never before. Business and government don't have to be enemies. Historically, businesses have greatly benefitted from some of the government's crowning achievements.
The FDIC is another invaluable government success story. In economic busts like that of 1929, banks that went under went under with our money in hand and millions of people lost their entire savings. Now, our deposits are backed by the federal government. This is one main reason that the most recent economic crash didn't destroy our economy completely and we haven't felt the repercussions that were felt throughout the 1930s.
Another thing to remember; without the G.I. bill, the middle class as we know it would not exist. The bill, devised and funded by the federal government, allowed over 16 million veterans to attend college. This boost in the education of the American population aided who else, but private businesses who now had the most educated, talented, and productive workforce in the history of the world. The workers themselves benefited with higher wages which indirectly created "the American Dream" of home ownership and retirement savings.
Perhaps the most important accomplishment of the U.S. federal government is the advances it has funded in the scientific fields of physics, biology and chemistry. In fact, the federal government funds over 80 percent of all scientific research conducted in the U.S. This research has had a tremendous impact on, none other than private sector. See, government funded research has allowed for technological breakthroughs like the Google search engine algorithm, supercomputers, advances in the research of artificial intelligence, the Internet, smartphones, cellular technologies, etc. It's hardly worth mentioning our military might and the unprecedented time of peace that has blessed our homeland.
Little known to the average man is the fact that the federal government funded, and has been the driving force behind virtually every product we use in today's world, and has shaped the country as we know it. If you love America as I do, then you must give the government some credit for creating the society that we live in. All I ask is that you keep all of this in mind the next time you are explaining your beliefs in libertarianism, conservatism, or otherwise anti-government sentiments.
James Bliss is a Jamestown resident who studied literature and philosophy at Florida State University.