Government Workers Appreciation Day

To the editor,
Isn’t it time for a Government Workers Appreciation Day?
We often are dismayed by what’s wrong with government: inefficiency, high costs, big deficits, pressure on our taxes. But we sometimes phrase that as “them against us,” government taking money out of our pockets for their multifarious purposes. But government is, in the end, us, not someone else. We use government to do for us what we cannot individually do for ourselves: plow the snow off the roads, police the city so there are no break-ins, rescue those hurt in accidents, put out fires, bring children hurt sledding to hospitals and care for them, monitor safety of what we eat, try criminals and punish them if they’re guilty, release them if innocent, and on and on. If any of these things were to be done privately, of course we’d expect to pay for them; how can we expect government to provide them if we don’t pay for them? So we pay taxes, and we should pay taxes, for all the services we get.

And government employees are not all lazy, greedy animals feeding off the public trough. They’re overwhelmingly our neighbors, working hard, often in the cold and through the night, doing difficult and often dangerous work often giving up the possibility of much higher paying jobs in the interests of serving the public, us. They deserve our thanks, not our opprobrium. They shouldn’t be made the scapegoats for the public deficits we face because we understandably resist the necessity of raising taxes. Compared to the bankers who draw down millions of dollars in salaries and bonuses for taking our money on deposit and lending it to others at good interests rates and speculating with what they have, keeping all the profit for their own personal enrichment. Compared to them – those a the top, not the typical bank teller – public employees are saints.

Wouldn’t it be appropriate, after the major effort dedicated to the recent snow emergency, to say thank you to the workers that helped us overcome it and the government for which they worked, our government – and shouldn’t we expect to pay, fairly (more by those that can afford it, less by those who can’t), for what is done by them and it on our behalf?
Peter Marcuse
P.S. Maybe both the populist tea party supporters and the old-fashioned liberals could agree on such a day?

Who IS Responsible for Loughlin Shooting Gifford?


Analyzing the shooting of Gabby Gifford and its relationship to political rhetoric, it is useful to divide the issues into three

  1. Did political rhetoric bring Jared Loughlin to attempt to kill Gabby Gifford?

Answer: No. Jared Loughlin was mentally unbalanced, and had a potential to commit violent acts as such, whose targets might have ranged from personal acquaintances, sexual partners, parents, or anyone seen as worthy of attack or any one of a broad palette of reasons.

  1. Did political rhetoric play a role in bringing Jared Louglin to attempt to kill Gabby Gifford?

Answer: Yes. Loughlin was potentially rife to kill someone. Who? Personal relationships might have produced a target; but social, including political, relationships were also on the palette of reasons for him to act. These might have included any one of a large number of “causes” in which extreme hostility to members of specific groups played a role, from religious fanatics to the extreme among social value defenders (e.g. anti-abortionists, anti-gays) to liberals seen as unAmericans to communists. The rhetoric of extreme tea party leaders was on the palette of causes from which Loughlin was exposed that might justify his inchoate propensity to kill.

  1. Did political rhetoric and use of violence as a political tool play a role in directly exposing Gabby Gifford to attempts on her life?

Answer: Yes. Not as to Laughlin’s particular attack, but certainly as to a set of attacks on her in Tucson, of which Loughlin’s was probably an accidental if not coincidental outcome. There are those that in fact advocate and practice violence as a political strategy, very conspicuously in many other countries, occasionally here. Her office had been shot at, her opponent had called for guns to be brought to and celebrated at is rallies; the language of violence used by some was easily transmuted into an advocacy of violence by others, even if outside the speakers’ direct intention.

Thus Jared Loughlin’s attack on Gabby Gifford was not “caused” by political rhetoric. But such rhetoric was on the pallets of many possible outlets for is psychic propensity to kill, one to which Gabby Gifford was particularly exposed. And the attack on her was a pat, at an extreme end, of those that in fact advocated violence against their political opponents of spoke in ways that could easily be interpreted as such advocacy.

Gaby Gifford shooting

Is the Tea Party to Blame for Gabrielle Gifford’s Shooting?

Does “the tea party” share responsibility for the murder of Gabrielle Gifford? No; the majority of its members are honest, sincere, people, concerned about family values, worried about their economic security and sometimes their physical safety, troubled by the direction government is going in and how it seems to be responding to bankers and hedge-fund managers more than to ordinary people. And they are normally peaceful, if often excitable, and usually in ways healthy for a vibrant democracy.

But there are leaders and backers of the tea party movement that do not fit this description. They are very well to do, and include millionaires and at least one billionaire. They include ambitious politicians hoping to get votes by playing on other people’s (not their own) insecurities. They are willing to use anti-immigrant prejudice and latent racism to whip up support for their own agenda, which has more to do with giving business free reign to make profits any way it can, keeping the million-dollar incomes and multi-million dollar estates of the very wealthy from any fair level of taxation, and in their own special interest appealing to the frustrations of those who listen to them to incite aggressive and unthinking reflex reactions in support of their selfish agendas.

The tea parties as such, and the large number of their supporters, I believe, cannot and should not be implicated in the killing of Gabrielle Gifford.  Nor is it fair to accuse any of its leaders of personally wishing that Gabby Gifford be shot, or intentionally encouraging such action. But those leaders and self-proclaimed spokespersons for the tea party that proclaim the end of the American way of life if any of the programs of the “liberals” are enacted, who speak of their opponents as unAmerican and liars if not traitors, who cry out for the preservation of an endangered American way of life by, implicitly, any means necessary, who consistently use millennial language to make defeating a political position a matter of life or death, who call on their supporters to come to their rallies bearing arms, who see government as evil and hostile, that bear some responsibility for events like this abominable killing.

It is not a question of accusing anyone of wanting the Tucson shooting or inciting it. It is rather a question of asking those who have ratcheted up the discourse (and that is certainly a more one-sided than evenly-located group) to stop and reflect, to examine their own language, to attempt to assess the benefits and costs of their approach to political issues. Had they been preaching tolerance and the legitimacy of opposing points of view, it might not have prevented Jared  Loughlin from killing someone, but might have made it less likely. And, in terms of who would get shot it is not a coincidence that Loughlin lived in Arizona, that he listened to over-blown rhetoric, that his environment was one of anger, hostility, fostering aggressive and hostile attitudes and behavior in matters of public discussion. The connection deserves reflection, introspection, perhaps some modesty and perhaps some changes in language and behavior. And of course in gun control legislation: Loughlin bought his bullet clip at Walmart!

It is time for the tea party to acknowledge that we still live in a great democracy, that our government is one elected by the people, even if by procedures that could bear improvement, and that the end of the world is not about to descend if this or that form of health care legislation is passed, if some people are allowed to marry who wouldn’t have asked it a hundred years ago, if there are real differences of opinion as to how the Constitution should be interpreted. Reasonable people can, and should, differ on all kinds of things in a democracy. Those leaders of the tea party that see an evil conspiracy behind any disagreement should be rejected by the honest tea party adherents. In an atmosphere of mutual respect and honest dialogue on matters of public importance, the shooting of Gabrielle Gifford would have been much less likely.