Robert Reich’s academic background may be in economics, but he is also a keen observer of trends in modern public life and often writes eloquently about the role of government in society. In this piece he coins a new and eerily accurate term: the hollowing out of government. Reich tells of how grossly under-resourced the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is and the role that may have played in the deadly fertilizer plant in West, Texas last month. Government doesn’t stuff tax money in the mattresses; it uses those funds to pay the wages of people who inspect places that handle potentially dangerous chemicals and put themselves at risk on our behalf. Reich walks through the OSHA example and several others that portray a deliberate attempt to “hollow out” government explicitly for the purpose of undermining public support. According to Reich:
The strategy also seems to bolster the Republican view that government is incompetent. If government can’t do what it’s supposed to do – keep workplaces safe, ensure that the rich pay taxes they owe, protect small investors, implement Obamacare – why give it any additional responsibility? The public doesn’t know the real reason why the government isn’t doing its job is it’s being hollowed out.