"The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'" He said it 1986. Not content to say it once, he repeated it in 1988 adding "Hi" and declaring them the ten most terrifying words.
It became an article of faith among the Republicans.
The reason is simple - not that the government doesn't help, but because when the government does help, it doesn't have time to introduce it self - or tell you what they are here to do. Usually government does it's job very far from the people they are helping. The EPA helps the millions around them, while pissing off the people they regulate. They don't even talk to the people they help, they talk to the people that might be hurting the people they help.
- When the firemen come, they don't stop to introduce themselves, they just jump right in and help. But they are still from the government and are here to help you.
- When the police officers come, they identify themselves as police, not 'from the government'. nor do they say they are here to help - even though most of the time they are there to help.
- Neither do teachers whose sole job is to help your students learn (anyone who has ever seen a child learn knows teachers help the process, they don't force it.
- Nor do librarians when they help you find things you want.
Why do I bring this up? Because it clarifies the basic problem with Republican thought.
- They think of 'the government' in the abstract sense rather than getting to the specifics. They say government spending is bad, but won't say what they want to cut. Their argument only appears to work if you stick to generalities.
- They pay attention to the people being directly controlled/punished (often the wealthy and corporate) without even looking at the many more people being indirectly helped (often the poor individuals).
- They like to pretend people are private citizens even when they are government workers. Those firemen? They are volunteers, not 'from the government'. Despite the fact that their equipment is bought by the government. Libraries - they are charities, not government employees.
How to destroy this joke and take it back as an accurate statement?
Simple - when the government ever helps you, require the people to say: "I'm from the government and I'm here to help."
When policemen, prosecutors, and judges talk to victims of crime, they should be required to say it.
When firemen, talk to victims of a crime, they should say it.
When doctors are paid by Medicaid, they should say it.
When you apply for Social Security, Medicare and Medicare, they should say it (and print it on the forms.)
When parents meet teachers, the teachers should say it.
When garbage-men see you when they are picking up your trash, they should say it.
When road-workers fix roads, they should say it.
etc. etc. etc.
Print it on your IRS refund check. Also your social security check and foodstamps, etc.
If all the government employees and sub-contractors said it, then just maybe no one would have laughed at Reagan's joke.
Because it just represented a rather ignorant political ideology, not reality.