There’s no one within earshot who hasn’t heard “Get government out of my life” or some such on TV, radio and even on a sign or two in our far Southwestern corner of Oregon. It’s the slogan for somebody mad about something.

So I’ve been thinking about that; about getting government out of our lives. Great idea! Where to start?

Well, how about Bonneville Power, the federal power grid and all that rural electrification stuff.? Let’s cast those out. Cut those federal billions and state and county millions out of our highway system. Now you’re talking.

Medicare, Medicaid and VA health care billions. Strip ‘em! Don’t forget Hill-Burton dollars that build hospitals and government grants of millions to put health care in under-served rural communities. Or medical research.

Wow! We’re rolling. OK, chop the FBI, Oregon State Police, county and local law enforcement. You’re getting at real government interference there. Don’t forget obnoxious water and food certification programs. How about the military? We’re talking BIG billions. And all those local installations that hire all those people. Cut! Cut!

Take government funding and oversight out of our public education system. That’ll really help. Federal Pell grants for college kids interfere, too. No reason for school meals paid for by government. Feeding kids is a parent responsibility. And senior programs. More damned nuisance.

Who could forget ever-popular OSHA interference with private businesses because of some silly worker safety issues. Oh, and government timber sales, market subsidies and government forests. Those VA and FHA loans that keeping builders building. Out, damned spot(s).

What’s next? How about local police and fire? School busses? And sewer and water systems all government built Did I mention the FAA and air traffic control networks? More government meddling. Be gone!

Wow! Getting into it and really figuring out how much government interferes with your life is empowering. Who would’ve thought? No wonder those people are mad. They’re right. It’s way too much!

OK. So, by now you’ve figured out I’m not serious about this cutting business, right? Au contraire, mon ami! I agree. We need less; not more. But where to cut? Aye, there’s the rub.

People don’t really mean “get government out of my life.” No, they mean “get government … that I don’t like, that keeps me from doing something, that I don’t understand, can’t see the value in, seems useless or doesn’t work … out of my life.” And I’d bet the farm each one has a list that doesn’t agree at all with mine. We each look at “government” through our own prisms and see clearly only our own view.

I’ll get more than my usual off-the-wall e-mails by saying this but it’s true: most of these folk are scared more than wanting to cut anything. Savings are being lost, bankruptcies and loan foreclosures are hitting record heights, homes devalued, jobs disappearing, many families stressed as never before, institutions we trusted have failed us and the bad guys most responsible for this chaos are being handsomely rewarded.

To a large extent, they see government failure. Failure to protect. Failure to use proper oversight powers given it. Failure of both parties in congress and legislatures to act fiscally responsible while ignoring our basic needs that government has proper roles in filling. They see many of those they elected ignoring them and their needs. They see unresponsiveness. And they’re scared. For the first time in their lives, the system doesn’t work..

It’s all true. And more. But if you “get government out” you aren’t going to fix it. If you try to separate yourself, you’ll find you can’t. Real opportunities to “cut government” are not available to us. We have no power there.

But we do have two powers that work. One, learn how the political game is really played … learn the rules … learn what those who failed us already know … become government literate … get involved. Stay inside the rules. They did it. So can we.

The second power is information coupled with action. Become an informed voter. Stop listening to sound bites or ideologues and learn the issues. Forget parties. Learn which are the qualified candidates regardless of label. Make them tell you the truth. Keep after ‘em. If you don’t get reasonable, intelligent answers, drop ‘em and keep looking. And when you’ve got good, real information. use it! At the ballot box.

The issue isn’t less government; it’s good government. How it works is up to us. So if it isn’t working, don’t abandon it: fix it! Become knowledgeable and active. We really are the power. Government, like fire, may be a poor master. But it can be a damned good servant.

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