The problem with "DO SOMETHING!"


It’s the typical cry made by pundits, politicians, and others following some sort of tragedy or crisis. It’s a bit of a natural reaction, especially when it’s done by people who have seen their money or jobs disappear through nefarious means, lose family or friends to a gunman’s bullet, or are mourning the destruction of property. They’re people in pain, searching high and low for assistance. They’re the ones who need to be approached, comforted, and aided, not smashed over the head with some sort of constitutional hammer. Others get frustrated by the lack of initiative of churches or charities to actually help others, or become quite cross when there’s corruption in the private sector.

The politicians and pundits who push for new regulations or government handouts are simply wanting to advance some sort of agenda, become mistaken in the idea a new bureaucracy or money will solve the problem, or just believe government is the solution to everything. Others are hoping to fatten their allies, or themselves, through legislation, akin to a leech sucking blood from a body.

The most recent example of politicians losing focus on their ideals, or just plain forgetting them, is the response from Texas’ so called “champion of freedom and liberty” Governor Greg Abbott and Senator Ted Cruz after Hurricane Harvey. Abbott and Cruz were elected in 2012 and 2014 partially because they promised to keep the feds from encroaching on the private sector and states’ rights. Cruz published three reports assailing President Barack Obama’s Administration for limiting freedom in the private sector, while also castigating the admin for an “assault” on Texas. His key phrase in 2014 was this:

As Americans continue to suffer from a struggling economy, exacerbated by the misguided and botched Obamacare legislation, the worst thing the federal government could do is burden states that have managed to achieve economic growth in spite of the stifling federal regulatory environment.

Abbott also furiously opined in The Dallas Morning News in May there needed to be a Convention of States to push back against the federal government.

Calling for a Convention of States to restrain a runaway federal government is the intended avenue of citizens’ redress offered by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison and other authors of the U.S. Constitution…

For decades, the federal government has grown too big, too costly and too intrusive into our lives. The federal courts continue to overreach their constitutional authority. And Americans can no longer count on Congress to fix what is broken in Washington. Congress is part of the problem.

However, both rushed to the federal government to save Texas after Harvey smashed into the Gulf Coast. Abbott called the almost $16B passed last month by the feds, “a down payment,” then asked for cash in a letter co-authored by Cruz.

Texas greatly appreciates the appropriations committees’ efforts to swiftly provide funds. However, in light of the unprecedented damage from Hurricane Harvey and the historically epochal flooding of Houston, Beaumont and surrounding regions, we all recognize that the funding already appropriated is a small fraction of the federal resources needed to help rebuild Texas and reinvigorate the American economy.

I have friends who lost everything in the storm, and family members who had to be rescued from the second floor of their homes due to flood waters. But they’re not looking to the government to help them, they’re picking through the pieces of their homes and trying to rebuild. Other Texans started Amazon Wishlists of things they knew neighbors or their communities would need. J.J. Watt raised millions to help Houston, and Image and Dark Horse Comics did their own fundraisers which donated money to various shelters. The private sector stepped forward, while Abbott and Cruz either forgot their principles or went full hypocrite. I’ll let you decide which one.

It’s certainly easy to smack House Speaker Paul Ryan and the NRA for their openness to legislation on bump stocks following the awful Las Vegas attack, and rightfully so. The NRA claims to want to protect the Second Amendment rights of individuals, yet Wayne LaPierre pushed the ATF to ban the items. Ryan has an A+ rating from said NRA, but is okay with Congressional action. I have a friend who was caught up in the Vegas attack, and is pushing for a ban. I can understand his position because of the carnage he saw, and, thankfully, he and his wife escaped without major injuries. Another friend of mine wants high-capacity magazines banned because he lost a friend in Aurora. Their positions will probably never change, but those positions make sense. Ryan and the NRA’s decision to give in to the “DO SOMETHING!” crowd is both unsurprising and disappointing.

But here’s the biggest problem with the idea of “DOING SOMETHING!” to fix an issue: it normally exacerbates the issue. The federal government was pushed to create what became the Veterans Administration after soldiers came home from World War I. The Sweet Bill of 1921 was pushed through Congress because organizers and the press were pushing the government to do something. Yet, it was discovered the first director of the Veterans’ Bureau was defrauding the government. Let’s also not forget the VA crisis from a few years ago, where hundreds of vets died because of not receiving care. But instead of killing the VA, the government is tossing more and more money at it. The private sector has stepped up to help where the VA has failed. The Texas Medical Association put together a database vets to go to for help, while Cooper University in New Jersey created their own vet health program.

There’s also the Department of Homeland Security. It was created by President George W. Bush’s administration to protect the country from further terrorist attacks, and to stop infighting between the CIA and FBI. Sadly, DHS begat the TSA, which is one of the most maligned agencies in the government. Agents have been arrested for stealing items and been accused of groping people going through airport security (including me). There are also questions about the government’s use of metadata or outright warrantless spying on Americans who use certain words in search engines or just end up on a “watch list” (including Congressman Tom McClintock). Privacy issues abound because of these agencies, not to mention the drain on the country’s finances, and it seems the only way to solve the problem is to kill the entire thing. But it won’t happen because we had to “DO SOMETHING!” to save the country. The actual solution may be withdrawing the U.S. from trying to influence policies in other countries. This doesn’t mean becoming “isolationist,” by not interacting with anyone, but not getting involved in clandestine operations or tossing money at governments in hopes they’ll become “more freedom-like.”

I can understand why people push “DO SOMETHING!” legislation because they believe the government is the best way to solve something, or they’re hurting and looking anywhere for help. But it’s a mistaken belief to have because it causes more problems, and whittles away at our freedoms. The solution is resisting the idea of government intervention, and staying true to our own principles. It also means pushing politicians to hesitate when the call for more government is exalted. Especially when they’re in the party you support.