Explore any part of the vast expanse of the Western United States, and you are sure to stumble across a plaque affixed to the corner of stone stairs leading to a pathway through a national park or monument. You will no doubt get similar unexpected knowledge from a sign hanging on the wall of a library in small-town America.
Things Americans take for granted, many of them, were financed by the federal government, built by U.S. workers, grateful for the Depression-era lifeline provided by the Works Progress Administration. Many of the roads, bridges and sidewalks that crisscross cities in every part of the country share the same provenance — the federal government everyone complains about.
Americans grumble about high taxes and do-nothing government workers, as we drive on public roads, send our kids to public schools and eat the food and drink the water we trust some inspector has approved for safety.
The put-upon workers, who have seen their jobs devalued in the public eye and reduced in the current administration, find validation where they can, most recently in the Oscar-nominated film “Get Out,” where a Transportation Security Administration worker is an unexpected hero. (His slightly profane catchphrase, on how the TSA handles “stuff,” has become an unofficial battle cry for the low-paid airport screeners who are, when you think of it, our last protection against terrorists.)
Will the recent chaos during the briefest of shutdowns change the conventional judgment about government’s worth?