The usual exhortation is, "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party."
It would make more sense the other way around: "Now is the time for all good parties to come to the aid of the men and women who entrust power into their hands.
The essence of our representative form of government is that all governmental powers reside in the people. Those powers that the people choose to delegate to their representatives are supposed to be exercised in the best interests of the people.
Most new presidents are accorded a honeymoon period during which they are gigen an opportunity to spell out the details of their programs. President Reagan has enjoyed a particularly harmonious honeymoon, but it may now be drawing to a close. As the generalities of campaign rhetoric are replaced by specific policies, euphoria is giving way to reality -- some of it harsh.
The latest assualt against the best interests of the people is the attack launched over the weekend against the Consumer Product Safety Commission. David A. Stockman, director of the Office of Management and Budget, made it official that the Reagan administration's preference is "to abolish the agency entirely." Stockman's fall-back position is that if he can't get CPSC killed, he wants it crippled.
The Reagan administration has advanced absurd resons for killing off an agency that attempts to cope with the 30,000 deaths and 30 million injuries attributed each year to unsafe products.
First Stockman argued that much of the commission's work has already been accomplished, so we can abolish it. One could respond that much of Stockman's work has already been accomplished, so we can abolish the Office of Management and Budget. Does that make sense?
The reason Stockman gave in his latest attack on CPSC was, "On balance, we feel the public benefits likely to be secured by the agency in the future are not likely to exceed the costs, especially when one considers that many of the commission's responsibilities can be carried out more efficiently and more effectively by other agencies."
What he has in mind specifically is to move CPSC into the Commerce Department -- an agency that is designed to protect rather than regulate business. He wants us to put a rabbit in charge of guarding the lettuce patch.
The Reagan administration's first trial balloon to cut its budget from $44 million to $33 million. It appeared that Stockman thought it was wasteful to spend 21 cents a year to protect each American from harmful consumer products. But now the truth is out. By Stockman's reckoning, our safety isn't worth even 15 cents a head. He wants to "save" more.
His idea of the way to do that is to kill off or neutralize what is now an independent agency mandated by Congress to operate under a bipartisan five-man commission. He wants to turn it into a minor bureau under the control of one politically appointed administrator in a Department oriented toward the bureau's natural enemies.
It will be interesting to see whether voters rebel against the Reagan Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board and other agencies whose mandate is to protect the people.
Enthusiasm for the elimination of waste in government remains undiminished. But waste has not been the Reagan administration's prime target, and this may be the issue that brings the honeymoon to an end.
In recent years, the Democratic Party has been perceived to be ever eager to do more things for more people, without due regard for the tax burdens created by such programs. The Republican Party has been perceived to be ever eager to trim the size and cost of government so that spending, taxes and inflation can be brought under control.
There is much to be said for each of these basic philosophies, but there would be greater support for a party that would espouse the best elements of both.
That kind of party would make intelligent decisions about how to spend the people's money, yet it would be able to resist the temptation to spend more than it takes in. That kind of party would think it had an obligation to come to the aid of its people.