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Gary Horton: Honestly, we’re socialists in the SCV

Full Speed to Port!

Posted: March 17, 2009 7:30 p.m.
Updated: March 18, 2009 4:30 a.m.
So - after enjoying a peaceful night's sleep in your virtually crimeless neighborhood, you drive your big SUV down our wide, landscaped roads, dropping kids off at our well-managed public schools, continuing your way down Caltrans-maintained highways to your job building widgets for the latest government fighter plane or public project. Listening to Rush Limbaugh in the morning, you consider how superior your anti-government, conventional-wisdom conservatism is. But maybe you're having some doubts.

Congressman McKeon makes a practice of wearing a B-2 bomber jacket adorned with flag lapel pins. Giant swaths of his district have defense or other jobs paid by government contracts. Whether building fighters or baking bread for school lunch programs, his conservative constituents take their publicly funded pay, perhaps giving little thought to the socialized manner in how they earn their way.

It's not just these people living off socialized, government funds. It's the teachers, coaches, janitors and contractors working in our schools. The street sweepers and landscape firms tending our boulevards - our firemen, police, prison guards and city staffers. Many of those who make the most valuable contribution to our quality of life are paid by government funds - communally paid by taxes from you and me.

Some working outside government financial influence decry all things taxed or funded by taxes. There may be boasts of self-made status, but more often than not, public schools and universities "made the men" they have become. Our outward enthusiasm for socialized Hart, COC and UCLA betray our inner image of rugged conservative individualism.

Here in the SCV, we're socialized to the core, and if we look around with open eyes we will see things for what they really are instead of what conventional conservative wisdom decrees us to believe. While McKeon himself rails against the vice of government spending, he too, of course, receives a government paycheck and packs bills with pork for the appreciative folks back home.

There's hypocrisy in conservative SCV.

Why can't we all just stand up, buck up and face reality? Why a persistent insistence on a handed-down, dead dogma that government-supplied services are conceived and born bad; innately inferior to anything produced in the private sector?

Government, goes the conservative ad campaign, is the enemy to free markets and a drag on our wealth. The good things we have, it goes, we have despite government, not with it.

Conservative SCV is steeped deep in this self-deception. We're self-made and don't need nothin' or nobody, least of all, some government program or another government employee. And we're full of ourselves. Are teachers less valuable to us than toilet- seat makers? Are police less important than our next Big Mac? We deceive ourselves when we thoughtlessly esteem private goods and services above those supplied in our common, socialized domain.

Government is bad, SCV conservatives chant, but would it please pave our roads and clean our water? Government is bad, they profess, but would it please keep us safe, secure and free from crime, disease, terrorists and tainted food? Government is bad, we want to believe - but would it, once we stop to really think about it - please keep providing those things most important to our very quality of life?

There is little doubt, market-driven goods and services are the apples that attract our eyes and open our wallets. IPods to Acuras, big houses to the cheesiest fast-food burgers whetting our appetites - these objects of allure are provided by private jobs in private companies in our government-empowered free-market system.

But what matters more come sunset? Your new satin sheets or your safe sleep insured by shepherding sheriffs? What matters more come sunrise? Your next Egg McMuffin or your kid's life-empowering education? So why do we devalue public services and the people who provide them?

There's much to be admired in America's free-enterprise miracle. But as the benefits of our fancy cars diminish when our roads and bridges crumble - so, too, go many of the better aspects of life should we ever succeed in the conservative mantra of starving off the socialized sector of our economy.

Left alone on our own, much of what makes our lives enhanced and livable is out of reach. Yet we say our taxes are too high? What's the price when a foreign force terrorizes or invades? Taxes too costly? What's the cost when a robber creeps into your house at night? Fees too high or dear? What's the fee for private tuition for high school and college? How dear is the incalculable cost of lives interrupted by broken highways, bridges and levies?

Many in the SCV enjoy a happy, socialized life, but preach an austere, other. Not sufficiently brave to face that we're communal to our core, they continue mouthing a conservative, anti-government creed.

Contrastingly, President Obama spoke straight up when he said the real issue isn't more or less government. The real issue is effective government. Managing government to efficiently get the things done we can't afford to do individually for ourselves.
Let's be honest and admit we want and need the goods only good government provides. And having crossed that emotional threshold, let's work together on making the government we want - better.

Gary Horton lives in Valencia. "Full Speed to Port" appears Wednesdays in The Signal. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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