A generation ago, Ronald Reagan, president and conservative demigod, told Americans he’d get government off our backs. That he did, and we've been living with the consequences ever since. 

The CDC is not funded to deal with Ebola, or many other more immediate and dangerous illnesses. Everything from private prisons to privatized parking meters have been abject failures in corporate accountability. Yet, these very same people are now targeting two of the remaining gems of the American system: public education and Social Security.


Their problem is that any real poll will say the same two things: Americans, regardless of political party, want their Social Security benefits increased and their kids' public schools fully funded, by increasing the allotment provided.

One can find proof of this in current campaigns. With respect to public education, once Republicans took over statehouses and state legislatures in 2010, they embarked upon a program of cutting taxes for the wealthiest and education for everyone else. This is most clear in the self-styled "experiment" undertaken by Gov. Sam Brownback (R) in Kansas. 

Brownback entered office with a surplus, and immediately took it for a spin on that discredited, bar-napkin-creation known as supply side economics. The result was not surprising: it bankrupted Kansas. This precipitated not only numerous downgrades in the state's credit, but huge education cuts

Now, Brownback, Republican Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsEvangelical leader: Not worth risking ties with Saudi Arabia over missing journalist GOP loads up lame-duck agenda as House control teeters Congress allows farm bill to lapse before reauthorization deadline MORE and Secretary of State Kris Kobach are staring into the abyss, behind or tied in their respective races, in a blood-red state. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott (R) is trailing as voters are reminded he passed enormous education cuts, in North Carolina Sen. Kay HaganKay Ruthven Hagan2020 Dems compete for top campaign operatives Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Politics is purple in North Carolina MORE (D) is holding on due largely to education-themed attacks against State House Speaker Thom Tillis, who led the way in cutting $500 million in education funds, and in Pennsylvania, Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's likely made his last education cut. Come November, he's toast. 

Put succinctly by education expert Sabrina Joy Stevens, a former public school teacher and Executive Director of Integrity in Education:

"It's not surprising pro-public education candidates are starting to gain an edge. By large margins, voters in both parties place a high priority on public education. Being the party that fights for it is great for candidates on Election Day, and crucial for the future of our nation."

Social Security tells a similar story. Rick Weiland (D) has come from nowhere to make a race of a once-moribund Senate contest in South Dakota, using support for increasing Social Security as a main selling point (also, getting big money out of politics). Seeing the power of this issue, Independent candidate Larry Pressler (formerly a GOP senator) is running from his past position supporting raising the retirement age, claiming he was misquoted. He wasn't.

Meanwhile, in Iowa, after trailing in his Senate race, Rep. Bruce BraleyBruce Lowell BraleyOPINION | Tax reform, not Trump-McConnell feuds, will make 2018 a win for GOP Ten years later, House Dems reunite and look forward Trump: Ernst wanted 'more seasoning' before entertaining VP offer MORE (D) has just about caught up to right-wing wackadoo Joni Ernst-- who favors privatizing Social Security--by making their stark differences on this issue clear. 

As former Sha Na Na member and co-founder of Senior Votes Count, Jon “Bowzer” Bauman, wrote about Social Security’s relationship to this race:

"Most Americans don't realize that annual contributions to Social Security are capped at $117,000 of personal income. When they find this out, they overwhelmingly support a change, so that Wall Street executives, hedge fund managers and the like pay their fair share into the system.

Recent polling by our friends at Social Security Works shows that a whopping 79 percent of Iowa voters support increasing Social Security benefits..."

Washington Post reporter Greg Sargent also shared that "a national Democratic strategist involved in the Iowa race tells me internal polling shows airing out Ernst’s true views on Personhood and Social Security is largely responsible for Braley bringing the race within two points."

Somehow Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump says GOP will support pre-existing condition protections | McConnell defends ObamaCare lawsuit | Dems raise new questions for HHS on child separations Poll finds Dems prioritize health care, GOP picks lower taxes when it's time to vote The Hill's 12:30 Report — Mnuchin won't attend Saudi conference | Pompeo advises giving Saudis 'few more days' to investigate | Trump threatens military action over caravan MORE (R-Ky.) — perhaps he was smoking Kentucky bluegrass -- admitted in a speech he was proud of trying to privatize Social Security. He's now being slammed for this, watching his poll numbers drop and perhaps never fulfilling his dream of obstructing from the majority.

This isn't the Da Vinci Code. It's a simple pattern, one that anyone not getting paid to look away, can spot. While Americans may dislike the phrase "big government," they sure like the individual things government does for them. 

Two of the most important programs, both of which hold a place in our historical memories and view of this country, are Social Security and public education. No matter the election results, we should begin with them as we take on the long project of reminding Americans of the importance of good government.

Schecter is a public relations adviser to progressive foundations, issue-advocacy groups and companies.