As tragedy strikes Kentucky, Republicans like Sen. Rand Paul should rethink obstructing a relief aid agency like the Small Business Administration.

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Photo by NOAA on Unsplash.

“We lost lives in at least eight counties,” Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear told reporters during a press conference Monday morning. “With this amount of damage and rubble, it may be a week or even more before we have a final count on the number of lost lives.”

The unseasonably late swarm of tornadoes swept across six states Friday night, leveling some small communities almost completely. Of the 88 people killed in the tragedy, 74 were in Kentucky where another 109 remain missing.

“We declared a state of emergency at roughly midnight, before the storm really hit,” Beshear added. “We received an immediate federal emergency declaration on Sunday, which is the fastest we’ve ever seen and last night we received a federal declaration of major emergency.”

In the wake of this terrible tragedy, it’s lucky for Kentuckians that government aid agencies have been so responsive. Because of quick thinking and good governance, help was already in route before the storm did its worst.

In the aftermath of this natural disaster, ’tis the season for limited-government proponents like Sen. Rand Paul to consider a change of heart about the meaning and purpose of good government.

While Paul blocks President Biden’s nominee for deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration, for instance, that particular federal aid agency isn’t doing all it could be doing for devastated Kentucky small businesses- and the hamlet communities who depend on them.

Senate Republicans blocking the nomination of Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur Dilawar Syed, Rand Paul chief among them, have used many reasons to justify obstruction. The reasons haven’t made much sense, but at the heart of all their objections, for Republicans like Rand Paul anyway, is a core belief that agencies like the SBA shouldn’t even exist.

“Big Government,” according to libertarian-leaning politicians like Rand Paul and his father before him, “is bad.”

But very few complex things, including “big” ,“intrusive” government, are ever all good or all bad.

Child labor laws, for instance, are an excellent example of good government. We don’t have child labor laws because we don’t need them. We very much do need child labor laws, to our sorrow. Without government intervention, American children would still be working in factories and coal mines.

There is a good reason your mattresses and pillows bear that “made with all new materials” label required by law to remain affixed until after purchase.

Were it not for the laws that put those silly little tags on your pillows, you might get a great deal on a pillow- only to find it filled with bedding reclaimed from a hospital’s communicable disease ward, or shavings from a factory floor, or something highly flammable.

Good government.

Thankfully, the FDA, USDA, and a dozen other federal agencies are dedicated to food safety regulations; conducting inspections and certifications, upholding sanitation standards. This is an example of good government. Who likes food poisoning?

We have workplace safety laws and OSHA guidelines to make sure employees aren’t locked inside factories with no fire exits or cooked into industrial rendering vats after slipping on a wet floor.

Good government.

Even the most committed proponents of limited government, like Sen. Paul himself, must admit that under at least some circumstances, government can be a good thing.

Expecting people to pull themselves up by the bootstraps is one thing. But surely relief workers and federal aid agencies who help after a natural disaster can be classified as good government, even by the most committed libertarian.

In Kentucky, bootstraps have been blown two towns away into a pile of downed power lines- along with homes, businesses, churches, schools and everything else.

The people and devastated communities of Kentucky need help; now more than ever. With good government, they will get all the help they need.

Without good government- and without the help of Republican Senators currently keeping the SBA from its full strength- they won’t.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)