Tree-Hugging Dirt Worship

May 7, 2012

Government Agencies to Love

Filed under: Soapbox — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paragardener @ 1:04 am

I don’t trust or like the American government. I think it is basically settling into a fascist totalitarian mode of suppressing the people always and working on behalf of huge corporations and superwealthy elites only.

Still, the government is okay at a few things, in spite of conservative claims that the only good government program is a purchase of guns ‘n’ ammo. Here’s a short list of government agencies worth keeping… these programs do what they are supposed to do, and serve everyone without creating tons of repression or perverse effects.

#1 — The Post Office. For some reason my particular post office won’t stop sending me past residents’ mail, and most of the rest is junk, but it is still nice to be able to mail greeting cards and so on.

As electronic commerce and communication replace letters, more and more boxes are getting delivered, and in this field the USPS faces formidable competitors such as FedEx and UPS. USPS even subcontracted its own express and overnight package delivery to FedEx. As a result of these changes, the Post Office is in rough financial shape. Postmaster General Pat Donahoe gave a 2011 speech recommending Congress allow the Post Office to cut benefits, cut delivery days and grant more discretion to the management.

I see no reason to rush to cut USPS back. They could receive some government funding, perhaps, to keep their services in effect while avoiding bankruptcy. Some very rural post offices are community hubs. Some stamp series have cultural weight. People might return to writing letters when they realize how effortlessly the government can skim through your e-mail. Lots of people work at the Post Office. So… it might have more significance than its life as a business.

My favorite thing about USPS is that it is actually authorized  by the US Constitution. Article 1 (Congress), Section 8, “The Congress shall have Power… To establish Post Offices and post Roads.”

#2 – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Do you like checking the weather report at weather.com, or on the Weather Channel, or on a smartphone app? How about the radio or the country’s several remaining daily papers? Well then, you are a welfare baby sucking at the government teat.

As far as I can tell, every weather “forecasting” outfit in the United States pretty much plagiarizes NOAA’s forecasts. I go ahead and get my weather directly from their web site to skip the middleman. So much for the uncanny and infinite superiority of free market private enterprise.

Besides predicting weather, NOAA is the government’s eyes and ears monitoring climate change, coastal and ocean ecology, fisheries and a few other such matters. Congress and corporations all lean on NOAA’s information to make educated decisions.

NOAA is part of the Department of Commerce. It loosely falls under Congress’s authority to regulate interstate commerce, since the oceans and atmosphere are an interstate phenomenon.

#3 – National Park Service. National treasures from the National Mall to Yellowstone are maintained and managed by the Park Service. That’s important work: Japan needs Mt. Fuji, Paris needs the Eiffel Tower, and we need the Grand Canyon to make us us.

Article 4, section 3 of the Constitution authorized Congress to manage property: “The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.” Actually, the clause was meant to allow for managing new territories in the West that were not yet States, but it still seems to apply.

#4 – NASA. NASA’s vision is “To reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind.” It might as well be, “To boldly go where no one has gone before… and send pictures back.” I would like for the people to continue funding NASA as long as publishing houses continue producing new coffee-table books full of nebula photos.

NASA was created for defense purposes, but I don’t think that it is relevant in defense terms today (the CIA and military branches have their own spy satellites, and will develop their own killer satellites in due time). Where in the Constitution is Congress authorized to boldly go? Do we need to plan new States on Mars, or what?

I suggest deploying NASA to the following Constitutional purposes:

1) Earth study. As strongly impacts interstate and international commerce, and national security. Climate change, the Pacific garbage patch, and the navigability of the Northwest Passage is crucial stuff that we should monitor by satellite.

2) Deflecting deadly meteors. Eventually, we are bound to lose some city or other to meteors unless we develop a plan to watch for, and deflect them.

3) Tracking space junk. A threat to all development, private and public, in space.

 

Well, those are some government agencies that I love in a fairly uncomplicated way. When it comes to entitlement programs, I always have to wonder about the perverse effects (do food stamps raise the price of food? do means tests inspire people to make themselves appear broke?) Nonetheless I feel that the government should maintain existing entitlements as long as the dollar remains good currency, for the people depending on that help and to keep some life in the economy, as well.

This blog is short on fact and long on unsubstantiated opinion. Like Socrates harassing the grocery shoppers of Athens, I really just want to put some questions to the people. What government services do you value? and… Do you believe in a government limited by the Constitution? Or can the government take on any power that is pragmatic at the time?

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2 Comments »

  1. Bridge card is a life saver, if you qualify for one you should get one, it is better for everyone that way. If you use your bridge card at a farmers market in Michigan you get double your money. If you pay with a bridge card the farmers market will give you 50% of your total back in these token coins that can be used only at farmers markets. I think the bridge card is a government service that should be expanded. Just about everywhere accepts bridge card, not just big box stores. As for it devaluing the dollar… who cares, i don’t use dollars! I use government farmers market tokens! I also want the most governmenty health care I can find and a really over funded government school system with tax dollars blowing out of the windows. Only we start at 5th grade, 9am, instead of right out of the womb at 7:30am.

    Comment by wilfridcyrus — May 7, 2012 @ 2:13 am

    • EBT is also good for fruit & veggie seeds, where it is taken. I had never heard of the farmer’s market bonus, though!

      Comment by paragardener — May 7, 2012 @ 2:59 am


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