George Graham

I Have to Agree With Reagan; Government Can Be the Problem

I don’t often agree with Ronald Reagan. I think he has been wrongly canonized by Americans who misread history. He just happened to be in charge when the Soviet Union imploded under its own economic folly, and that lucky accident glorified his legacy.

But two news stories this morning make me think he might be right when he famously said:

Government is not the solution; government is the problem.

reaganThat’s not exactly what he said; he began the sentence in his inaugural address with, “In this present crisis.”  But that’s the way it is usually remembered, especially by small-government nuts who think a country could get along just fine without anyone to run things. Of course, they’re wrong.

Even Reagan knew that. His administration didn’t hesitate to impose its will on the American public. He was referring to a specific instance in which he thought the federal government should butt out, not advocating anarchy.

I have worked for governments from time to time, and they can be abusive, unfair and oppressive. But they’re necessary.

haitiThe problem is the bureaucracy – or more accurately the politicians and bureaucrats. What is it that makes some people lose every grain of common sense the moment they find themselves in authority?

Consider the governor of Florida, a Senate wannabe named Charlie Crist.

You tell me what he thinks he’s doing after you read this AP excerpt:

MIAMI – The U.S. military has halted flights carrying Haitian earthquake victims to the United States (photo above) because of an apparent cost dispute, though a doctor warned that some injured patients faced imminent death if the flights don’t resume.

cristThe evacuations were temporarily suspended Wednesday, said Capt. Kevin Aandahl, spokesman for U.S. Transportation Command. The flights were halted a day after Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (photo at left) asked the federal government to help pay for care.

However, Dr. Barth Green, a doctor involved in the relief effort in Port-au-Prince, warned that his patients needed to get to better hospitals.

“We have 100 critically ill patients who will die in the next day or two if we don’t Medevac them,” said Green, chairman of the University of Miami’s Global Institute for Community Health and Development.

Who in his right mind would think this is the time to stop saving lives and start squabbling over the tab?

Here’s another news item that shows even Haiti is afflicted with the bureaucratic curse:

A group of 10 American Baptists were being held in the Haitian capital Sunday after trying to take 33 children out of Haiti.

The church group, most of them from Idaho, allegedly lacked the proper documents when they were arrested Friday night in a bus along with children from 2 months to 12 years old who had survived the catastrophic earthquake.

The group say they were setting up an orphanage across the border in the Dominican Republic.

“In this chaos the government is in right now we were just trying to do the right thing,” the group’s spokeswoman, Laura Silsby, told The Associated Press at the judicial police headquarters in the capital, where the Americans were being held pending a Monday hearing before a judge.

The Baptists’ “Haitian Orphan Rescue Mission” was described as an effort to save abandoned, traumatized children.

We’re talking about the Haitian government – an oxymoron if ever there was one – which proved utterly useless when the earthquake ravaged Port au Prince but is now flexing its muscles to prevent orphans from getting help.

Sometimes, government is, indeed, the problem. And that’s the way it will be as long as human beings are in charge.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for

1 Comment

  • How true! Too many are rooting “as hard as they can” and getting nowhere. One of my relatives is having a hard time finding a full-time job after her husband left her. She’s getting by with the help of her adult children and other family members. But there is only so much family can do, and she’s worried. She depends on her husband for health care insurance and help paying the mortgage. Something has to be done when good, hard-working people can’t find a job. I notice your golfing buddy can afford a golf game. There must be some folks in Central Florida still needing irrigation systems. Although I did see a neighbor recently putting in his own little irrigation pop-ups and setting up his own system. He did it, too. When I walked past his house a few days ago, it was working. I applaud President Obama’s guts in cracking down on the obscene millions going into the pockets of banking executives. One wonders how these people can take the money knowing their own failures caused their problems, and their outlandish bonuses were gifts from taxpayers. Most of us feel so incredibly helpless. After rooting hard, we go to bed wondering if we are going to just die. Without government, who, indeed, will protect us. Please God, give this president the wisdom and strength to get us out of the mess we are in.