Presidential candidate Mitt Romney got himself into a lot of trouble last year by making disparaging remarks about the so-called “47 percent” of Americans who rely on the government for their needs. Actually, that number is much higher, and without a lot of those government programs, you may as well move the country to Botswana or someplace like that, which also doesn’t have indoor plumbing.

Regardless of who you are or what your economic level is, we all get a lot of things from the government that we take for granted. Whether you live in an upstate city or the suburbs of New York, mass transit is a big deal. Many of the high rollers who run hedge funds as well as the blue-collar employees of Wall Street rely on the Long Island Rail Road or Metro North to get to work each day. People who use upstate airports would see diminished service without federal funding.

New Yorkers like to brag about their quality of life and boast about the best parks and beaches. Last time I looked, those much-cherished facilities belonged to the government, and without taxpayer support and subsidies from the government, they wouldn’t exist. If you think that the commuter railroads and subways are just paid for out of the fare box, you’re very mistaken. Without federal subsidies, none of the trains and buses would be running.

Government is too big and needs to be downsized. But where do we start? Social Security checks for widows?

Which brings me to the issue of the U.S. Postal Service. The people who run our mail system are threatening to do away with Saturday delivery starting this August. The postal system lost almost $16 billion last year, and it has to do something to stop the bleeding. Cutting out Saturday service would save at least $2 billion, which isn’t small change. There is no doubt that emails and such services as FedEx and UPS have taken a lot of business away from our postal system. Oddly enough, the cost of these overnight delivery services would probably be doubled or tripled if there weren’t a postal service to keep the rates down.

No doubt many of our readers wouldn’t care if there were no mail delivery, but the vast majority of Americans would suffer greatly. So who do we blame for the current postal mess? It’s no surprise that Congress has created it. Members of Congress are the first people to scream when a local post office is about to close. But last year Congress forced the postal service to default on a multibillion-dollar pension fund payment by denying the funding.

The postmaster general said last year that there was a need to close 252 of the 487 mail-processing services and reduce overnight delivery of first class mail. Within seconds of the announcement, it seemed, a handful of Tea Party-supported congressmen starting screaming in protest. These are the same people who are always complaining that government has to be downsized and run like a private business.

In addition to mail delivery, there are quite a few other services we take for granted. Millions of people rely on Amtrak for train service throughout the Northeast. Not everyone can afford to take an airplane to Washington or Boston, and those discount bus companies aren’t always the safest. Take a ride on an Amtrak train and you will see every class of citizen sitting in the same car.

There’s no doubt that government is too big and needs to be selectively downsized. But where do we start? Social Security checks for widows? Aid for college students from poor families? Payments to returning soldiers for career retraining?

Mitt Romney was totally wrong when he talked about the “47 percent.” The number is a lot bigger than that, and it covers all of us, including me, who respect what government does and can do.


Jerry Kremer
About The Author Jerry Kremer [Full Bio]
Jerry Kremer was a New York State assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Jerry’s new book, Winning Albany, was released on October 8, 2013.

You don't have permission to view or post comments.

Quick Search

FREE Impact Analysis

Get an inside perspective and stay on top of the most important issues in today's Global Economic Arena. Subscribe to The Manzella Report's FREE Impact Analysis Newsletter today!