This is an election year, and unless you’ve been living on a remote part of the planet where political signs and commercials don't reach, you probably already know this. The midterm elections are almost here, and in November, Americans will elect members of Congress, a number of governors and numerous officials at the state level. People from all over the political spectrum are urging citizens to get out and vote, and there is little doubt that voting is important. Starting with our earliest school civics class, we are taught the importance of casting your vote.
Voting in America has been an important tradition since the first settlers arrived to make their homes in Jamestown. These early Americans held the very first election on what would become American soil on April 26, 1607, just days after their arrival. A box containing the names of seven men was unpacked. These seven, chosen in England, were to be the council of the new British American settlement. Those seven councilors were then tasked with choosing a president. The election process was a bit different in those days, but the concept of the vote was very important even then.
Obviously, elections and government have changed a lot since 1607; instead of seven councilmen, one of whom would be president, we now have 535 members of Congress plus a president that we elect to represent us in our federal government. State and local governments include even more elected officials. Our government has definitely changed and grown since the first election.
Occasionally someone will question what, exactly, is meant by the phrase "big government." How can the government possibly be too big? America needs someone to look out for its citizens. Who would build the roads without the government? The Department of Education, the EPA, the IRS and all the other acronyms and initials that make up our federal government are essential: All those agencies, committees, sub-committees, task forces, regulations and laws are necessary for a civilized society! How would this country function without a large federal government?
Good question. Let’s take a look at some of the things that our elected officials do.
The primary job of those we elect to represent us is to introduce bills that they hope will become new laws. They are required to introduce a certain number of bills during each legislative session. Obviously, not all of those bills go on to become laws, but many do. We elect these people and pay them with our taxes to create laws that influence our lives in one way or another.
Another big part of what our government does is spend money. No matter how much money American citizens give to the government in the form of taxes, the government manages to spend it all and increase our deficit at the same time. While the government taxes and spends, we have Domino's Pizza fixing potholes. Elon Musk is vowing to help fix the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and plumbers in Flint are installing water filters free of charge. While these private citizens are stepping up to help their fellow Americans, by doing things we typically think of as the government’s job, what is our government doing, exactly?
Many people may remember the now infamous shrimp-on-a-treadmill study that was thrown around a lot during the last several years. This study, backed by the National Science Foundation, has been held up as the gold standard of government waste, and let’s face it: It’s utterly silly! The shrimp on a treadmill is not by any means the only ridiculous thing created or funded by our government. The examples of government waste and inefficiency make a long list.
Let’s look at a few other things that our government spends time and money on. There is a processed meat known as Turkey Ham, basically a combination of chopped-up ham and turkey smashed together to form a loaf. It is illegal to call this processed delight ham turkey. It’s also illegal to use different fonts for the words turkey and ham on the label. Calling this product anything other than Turkey Ham with identical fonts is not only illegal, it’s a federal crime. No hammy turkey for you!
It is also a federal offense to damage a government-owned lamp. If you ever find yourself at a government party, do not get caught with a lampshade on your head. You could be charged with a federal crime!
The federal government isn’t the only one guilty of ridiculous laws. Individual states have plenty of their own. The State of Colorado is home to a plethora of such laws. In Aspen, for example, it is illegal to fire a catapult at a building. In the City of Boulder, it is illegal to roll boulders on city property. In Westminster, you can be fined if you allow someone to park closer than two feet to you.
Shrimp on treadmills. Proper naming and labeling of processed meat. Movement of rocks on public property. The list of ineffective and downright ridiculous laws or uses of our tax dollars is long.
This November we will elect a new crop of officials eager to make their marks on the law books of our country. In addition to funding shrimp-treadmill experiments and pointless laws, our elected officials do have the power to put an end to these things. It is possible to find candidates who will cut government waste, curb spending, get rid of overreaching and pointless laws, and generally promote a more efficient government.
You have options when you go to the polls this year. Do your research and don’t forget to think about those little shrimp running on treadmills that you paid for with your tax dollars. Be sure to thank Domino's Pizza, Elon Musk and all the other private citizens and corporations for all they do, then choose wisely. Do you want to build a better shrimp, or a better government?
Bonnie Pyle grew up in Teller County, where she currently lives. She is a passionate animal rescuer, outdoor adventurer and Libertarian. For information on the Libertarian Party of Colorado, contact Lance Cayko at 303-775-7406 or email at CommunicationsDirector@LPColorado.org.
Westword occasionally publishes op-eds on issues of interest to the community. If you have one to submit, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.