Visit Professor Amy's new website, Second-Rate Democracy: Seventeen Ways America is Less Democratic than other Major Western Countries and How We Can Do Better

Welcome to

Why a website defending government?  Because for decades conservatives have been demonizing and attacking government and not enough has been done to defend it.   We need to recognize that despite its problems, government plays an essential role in promoting the good life for all Americans.  When we recklessly reduce and underfund this institution, we are hampering our ability to improve people’s lives and to effectively address our pressing social, economic, and environmental problems.

To see what is at stake in this battle over government, we need only consider how efforts to limit government in this country have caused us to fall behind many other advanced democracies in providing important public services.  Most western European countries, for instance, have larger public sectors and do much better in a wide variety of areas, including retirement security, poverty reduction, child care availability, affordable higher education, pollution control, limiting workplace injuries, affordable housing, crime control, infrastructure investment, healthcare access, and much more.  A 2014 study found that among similar countries, the U.S. ranks 31st in personal safety, 34th in access to water and sanitation, 39th in basic education, 69th in ecosystem sustainability, and 70th in health.

Most Americans are aware of the crucial role that government plays in addressing these kinds of issues.  Polls consistently show a majority wants the federal government to do more to aid education, protect the environment, strengthen Social Security, and improve access to medical care.  And yet Republicans continue to insist that what we need is even less government, and they persist in waging a relentless political war against this institution.  GOP politicians have been joined in this anti-government crusade by libertarian thinkers, right-wing media pundits, billionaire political activists, and wealthy corporate lobbies.

Make no mistake: the goal of this anti-government movement is not merely to eliminate waste or make the government more efficient.  The ultimate aim is to undermine many of the most important and successful government programs that have been in place since the New Deal and the Great Society. They want to slash spending on vital safety net programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, and Social Security.  They would like to roll back key regulations protecting consumers, workers, and the environment.  And they want to reduce taxes so drastically that many crucial programs and agencies would be starved of funds.

A Congressional Budget Office analysis of Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal found that by 2050, there would no money left for any federal programs except Social Security, Medicare, and defense spending. Virtually everything else the federal government does would come to a halt.  Few Republican leaders seem bothered by this, perhaps because many have already called for the wholesale dismantling of entire federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Interior, and Education.

During the Obama administration, Republicans were blocked from enacting these extreme cuts in government programs and services. But with the election of Donald Trump and the GOP control over both houses of Congress, this radical anti-government agenda has a much better chance of becoming a reality.  The attack on Obamacare was simply the opening salvo.  Also on tap are other parts of the Republicans' government-destroying wish list:  large tax cuts and assaults on basic social safety net programs.   Another top priority is wide scale deregulation.  Trump has promised corporate leaders that he will eliminate 75% of business regulations.  And he appointed heads of federal agencies who actually oppose the basic missions of those agencies. This includes installing a climate change denier to lead the EPA; a man who previously sued the EPA to stop regulations on carbon dioxide, ozone, and mercury, Clean Water rules, and more.  Chief White House strategist Stephen Bannon made it clear early on that one of the main goals of the Trump administration was the "deconstruction of the administrative state" -- meaning the deliberate sabotaging of the administrative system that runs our social programs and implements regulations, and that is an essential part of modern democratic government.

Note that much of the material on this site was originally written during the Obama years, so some of the examples used may seem a bit dated.  But the basic principles and arguments remain valid.  The agenda of the anti-government movement remains the same, as does its tactics.  For example, I detail here how President George W. Bush promoted deregulation by cutting administrative budgets and appointing administrators who were ideological enemies of their own agencies.  This same blueprint is being followed by President Trump, albeit with more vigor.

This website is a response to this increasingly extreme anti-government movement and its distorted depiction of government.  It makes the case that government – despite its flaws – plays a valuable and indispensable role in promoting the public good. In reality, most government programs are working well and are actually improving the lives of all Americans in innumerable ways.

Our democratic government is a unique institution that allows us to pool our resources and to act collectively to address the serious social, economic, and environmental problems that we are unable to deal with as individuals. The public sector is also how we provide for essential human needs that are neglected by the market – such as clean air and water, safe workplaces, and economic security. What’s more, government serves as an important instrument of moral action – a way for us to rectify injustices, eliminate suffering, and care for each other. In short, democratic government is one of the main ways we work together to pursue the common good and make the world a better place. If we want an America that is prosperous, healthy, secure, well-educated, just, compassionate, and unpolluted, we need a strong, active, and well-funded public sector.

Articles on this site will also show that the arguments used by conservative to try to justify their attacks on government are often based on misinformation and faulty assumptions. Consider, for example, the charge that the federal bureaucracy is growing at an uncontrollable rate. Simply not true. The facts are these: in 1970, 2,944,000 civilians worked in the federal executive branch; by 2014, that figure had grown to – or rather been reduced to – 2,663,000.  In 1966, the federal government employed 4.3% of all people with jobs in the U.S.  In 2013, federal employees made up only 2% of the total workforce.  So much for the ever-growing federal bureaucracy.

Most of the other traditional conservative criticisms of government are off the mark as well.  This site shows that Americans are not hugely overtaxed, that big government does not inevitably impinge on individual freedoms, and that government is not the natural enemy of business.

This is not to deny that American government has its problems. There are incidents of waste, some regulations are poorly designed, and some politicians abuse their power. More importantly, our government is certainly not as democratic and accountable as it could be, money plays too big a role in politics, and special interests have way too much political power. Such problems need to be fixed, and this site identifies several needed reforms. Nonetheless, whatever drawbacks this institution has right now are far outweighed by the enormous benefits that we all enjoy from a vast array of public sector programs. On the whole, government is good for us and we need to start coming to its defense.


  • The War on Government. This section of the site chronicles the unrelenting assault on government being waged by conservative forces in this country. Articles describe how cuts in social programs and rollbacks of regulations have harmed the health, safety, and welfare of millions of Americans; how these assaults have taken place on many fronts – in Congress, the administrative branch, and the federal courts, as well as on the state and local level; and how the right’s radical anti-government agenda is out of touch with the views and priorities of most Americans.
  • Why Government is Good. This section describes how government acts as a force for good in society. One piece chronicles a day in the life of an average middle-class American and identifies the myriad and often overlooked ways that government laws and programs improve our lives. Other articles describe the forgotten achievements of government; how government serves as an instrument of “good works;” how public sector policies and institutions protect and enhance our freedoms; how a free market economy would be impossible without the elaborate legal and regulatory infrastructure provided by government; and why we need more – not less –government.
  • How to Revitalize Democracy and Government. There are, in fact, some problems with American government, and we need to address these if we are to restore Americans’ faith in this institution. Right now, the main problem with our government is that it is not accountable and responsive enough to the public. We have a deficit of democracy – with special interests too often winning out over the public interest. Articles in this section describe this problem and how we can fix it. There are several reforms – including public financing of elections – that could help our government live up to its democratic ideals. The final piece discusses several political strategies for rebuilding and revitalizing the public sector. This includes a campaign to “reframe” the way we think and talk about government. We also need to develop a pro-government coalition in this country. Political groups that depend on active and well-funded government – environmentalists, women, minorities, labor, teachers, etc. – need to move beyond their own narrow policy concerns to embrace a wider political vision that promotes government as a good in itself.