The other day when listening to sports talk radio I was treated to Original Mattress Factory CEO and pitch man Ron Trzcinski wishing me a Happy Independence Day. In his most recent commercial radio ad, Trzcinksi gets off his box spring and on to his soapbox:
“This is Ron Trzcinski. Our founders intended this country to be one of limited power, created expressly to protect our rights. As time has progressed, however, it has become less limited in scope and our rights less secure.”
This assertion, the same used by Tea Party activists these days, is softer than one of Mr. Trzcinski’s premium mattresses. Lets get real, Ron. If you are an American woman, racial minority, religious minority, or gay person, your rights are much more secure now than they were in colonial times. Quaint little colonial customs like slavery, hanging for sodomy and Native American genocide are, thank goodness, things of the past. For the most part, state and federal laws no longer treat American women like legal incompetents, akin to children and criminals. States like Massachusetts no longer ban non-Christians from holding office, or require Catholic officeholders to formally renounce papal authority.
Does Mr. Trzcinski really want to take us back to those “good old days?” The truth is, the rights of Americans are much more secure than they were in colonial times.
As for Trzcinksi’s point about limited government, it is true that the United States has more government than it did in the colonial times, just as every industrialized nation on the planet does. The American government that American citizens have freely chosen, via their representative democracy, has given us dramatically better education, health care, water, homes, national security, food, working conditions, environment, medical research, consumer protection, police and fire protection and a myriad of other things most colonial citizens lacked. That’s why polls continually show that Americans want more government services, not less.
Does Mr. Trzcinski really want America to take us back to those days of bare bones government?
Rather than comparing the governments of two vastly different historic eras –colonial America versus contemporary America — it is much more sensible to compare the United States with other contemporary industrialized societies. Making that comparison, it becomes clear that America still has very limited government. When you look at government revenue as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), Americans pay 27% (includes state, local and federal taxes combined), according to the conservative Heritage Foundation. (It should be noted that a sizable portion of that 27% is used to fund the largest military and counter-terrorism initiative in the world, a heavy burden that other nations don’t bear. ) Americans’ tax bill is much less than the 29% paid by Mexicans, the 31% paid by Irish and Australians, the 32% paid by Canadians, the 34% paid by Poles, the 35% paid by Brazilians, the 39% paid by British, the 41% paid by Germans, the 44% paid by Norwegians, the 44% paid by Fins, the 45% paid by the French, or the 46% paid by the Swedes.
It simply is not true that since colonial times Americans have been losing all of their rights and being overrun by a vast government. America accomplished truly great things on July 4, 1776 that are well worth celebrating. But we need to celebrate the truth of 1776, not the delusional Tea Party spin. Most importantly, we need to celebrate how much more true America has gotten to its Declaration of Independence values over the past 237 years.