Recently, apologists (such as Chapman in the Chicago Tribune, Brooks and Tierney in the New York Times) for the less-is-more philosophy of government that the Bush Administration subscribes to would have us believe that FEMA's failure to respond to Hurricane Katrina is vindication for smaller government. This reminded me of the classic example of total hubris: a child kills his parents, then uses the fact that he is an orphan to deflect blame for his actions.
What we have just witnessed is the outcome of the dismantling of government by people who consider it not to be an institution that implements programs for the common good, but rather a beast to be starved.
And starve it they did into what anyone would describe as near bankruptcy, through tax breaks for the wealthy during an unnecessary war of choice and unprecedented pork spending. If you hold government in contempt, you can justify rewarding your friends by giving them bridges to nowhere, while cutting funding for levees that protected our major port.
And of course, if you have no respect for what government can accomplish, why would you bother to put someone in charge of FEMA who actually had experience?
But not so very long ago we had examples that prove what government can do when run by people who believe in it. Franklin Roosevelt put thousands of the unemployed people to work during the Great Depression, rebuilding America's infrastructure with projects that still stand today. Instead of giving money to the very richest 2 percent, he instituted Social Security and Medicare to provide for those most in need.
And, most tellingly, when Pearl Harbor was bombed, we actually attacked Japan, not some easier target like Argentina. In four years, America and its allies defeated, unequivocally, both Japan and Germany. Bush can't even find Osama bin Laden.