Tuesday, May 22 , 2018, 12:06 am | Fair 58º


Mark Shields: The Government and My Grandchildren

Our lives are better — and safer and healthier — because of efforts by government at all levels

Jack is 6½, and Frances Anne just turned 4. I will not burden you with tiresome anecdotes about how funny, quick and special they are. Just take my word for it: They are.

Mark Shields
Mark Shields

Like all grandparents, I want them to grow up safe and healthy, which got me thinking about a few of the things we collectively, as communities and as a country, do to make that possible.

The air they breathe and the water they drink are cleaner, safer and healthier because of federal laws than they were when their grandparents grew up. The cars they ride in, because of government regulations and public law, which mandates seat belts and child safety seats, are a lot less dangerous.

They will get an excellent education at superior public schools in a county where 45 percent of the residents are black, Latino or Asian. The schools are integrated because their federal government ended racial segregation and guaranteed civil rights, including the right of all to public accommodations, to vote and to buy property.

Jack and Frances Anne have fun playing on the public playground. They expand their imaginations at the public library. Someday they will visit the national parks and swim on a national seashore. They are fascinated by the Internet, the original version of which was designed in the 1960s (no, not by Al Gore) at the Defense Department.

If either child falls sick and the family doctor prescribes a medicine, we know — because of the Food and Drug Administration — that the prescribed drug will be safe. Thanks to the Family and Medical Leave law, a parent, if necessary, can take time off to nurse a sick child.

When they come to visit us, we know — because of the labels required by law — the exact nutritional value and calorie count of the food we feed them. We also know, because of legal requirements, that the food we buy for them at the market is safe and has been federally inspected.

Because public law insists, we know that the buildings and the workplace conditions where their parents earn a living are neither unsafe nor unhealthy — and that any creative product either of them authors will be protected by public law, copyright and the courts. We are confident that in the workplace they and their co-workers, because of federal law, will never endure discrimination based on gender, religion, national origin or disability.

Any airplane the family flies in will first have to meet federally imposed safety standards and will be guided from its takeoff through its flight and to its landing by professional air traffic controllers who are federal employees. Relying upon more than 140 million weather readings from satellites, ships, aircraft, land sources and balloons, the National Weather Service is able to alert us to sudden storms or worse.

Our public safety is maintained by local police, prosecutors and the court system, as well as by state and federal officers. Our national safety is protected by the men and women of the U.S. armed forces.

The preceding is just a terribly abbreviated sampling of what government at all levels does every day to help make the lives of our children and grandchildren — of all of us — healthier, happier, safer and more prosperous. Everyone seems to know firsthand the shortcomings of government — the too frequent indifference, even incompetence or arrogance — but, especially at this special time of the year, we would do well to remember, even to appreciate, what government does do for those whom we love.

Mark Shields is one of the most widely recognized political commentators in the United States. The former Washington Post editorial columnist appears regularly on CNN, on public television and on radio. Click here to contact him.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Supporter

Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >