Decades of anti-government rhetoric have made liberals wary of claiming their legacy as supporters of the state’s positive role. That’s why they have had so much trouble making the case for President Obama’s stimulus program passed by Congress in 2009. It ought to be perfectly obvious: When the private sector is no longer investing, the economy will spin downward unless the government takes on the task of investing. And such investments — in transportation and clean energy, refurbished schools and the education of the next generation — can prime future growth…

So when conservatives say, as they regularly do, that “government doesn’t create jobs,” the riposte should be quick and emphatic: “Yes it has, and yes, it does!”

Indeed, our unemployment rate is higher today than it should be because conservatives blocked additional federal spending to prevent layoffs by state and local governments — and because progressives, including Obama, took too long to propose more federal help. Obama’s jobs program would be a step in the right direction, and he’s right to tout it now. But he should have pushed for a bigger stimulus from the beginning. The anti-government disposition has so much power that Democrats and moderate Republicans allowed themselves to be intimidated into keeping it too small.

Let’s turn Ronald Reagan’s declaration on its head: Opposition to government isn’t the solution. Opposition to government was and remains the problem.