07.01.2008 0

Big Government Pipe Dreams

  • On: 07/20/2008 17:32:43
  • In: Fiscal Responsibility
  • In the 19th century, the phrase “pipe dream” was used to describe the “visions” opium smokers experienced while under the influence. Today, it is equally appropriate to use it in reference to Big Government advocates, who must be smoking something to think that Americans can afford the next wave of Big Spending being proposed in this presidential election.

    The cover of the April 21st U.S. News & World Report says it all:

    “BIG GOVERNMENT: It’s back – no matter who wins. Americans want Uncle Sam to solve their problems…”

    Ironically, however, the front-page headline about what the American people “want” bears little or no relation to the lead story itself. “The Return of Big Government” is actually a chronicle of Big Government excesses just this year and about how the candidates are proposing to make the excesses even more wretched.

    The fact is U.S. News editors need to talk to their own reporters – and to the American people, as well. The story does not even pretend to cite one recent public opinion poll finding that “Americans want Uncle Sam to solve their problems.”

    Even the opinion piece they publish alongside the story, “Uncle Sam Pays? Sure, Whatever” by Michael Barone – which ALG News covered yesterday – demonstrates that the question is, at best, nuanced about which direction the next generation of voters will lean on that question.

    It is hardly a fait accompli that Americans want anything even approaching Big Government – as the final paragraph of the U.S. News story makes clear:

    “The free-market policies of the past 25 years were preceded by a huge decline in American trust in government. But there’s little sign that a decade of corporate blunders and scandals—from Enron to Citigroup—or even political fiascoes like Katrina has created a renewed enthusiasm for government. It’s more like a pox on both their houses. Indeed, as public-opinion analyst Karlyn Bowman notes, times of economic trouble generally make people less favorably disposed toward government. And even [Jacob] Hacker, a fellow itching for more activism, concedes there is little public support for radical change. ‘You have to establish public trust by doing relatively small things and then working from there,’ he says.”

    More importantly, there is no serious political or economic analyst who really believes Americans can even afford the Big Government they already have – let alone more of it.

    As Jim Jubak put it recently in his piece, “US deep in debt and still digging”:

    “The taxes you paid on your recently filed 1040 included roughly $4,300 to cover your household’s annual share of the interest payments on the $9.4 trillion in public debt owed by the U.S. government.

    “That $9.4 trillion is just part of what we as a nation owe collectively. There’s also the $700 billion trade deficit we ran up in 2007 as a result of importing more than we exported…

    “One day, the bill for all that debt will come due. That’s a dead certainty. As sure as it is that the interest due on the federal debt will show up in the income tax you pay next year. And the year after… We’ll pay some of that bill directly, as formal taxes. And we’ll pay some of it indirectly — maybe even so gradually we won’t notice — as what I’d call informal taxes, such as lower living standards and a sinking U.S. dollar. But pay it we will.”

    In other words, we are already steeped in debt – and an even bigger Big Government will only compound the problem.

    Yet, in one respect, the U.S. News headlines are right: like addled addicts, the politicians ramble on about their grand schemes for more spending. Big Spending is an addiction – much like the opium scourge of the 19th century, which only produces more grandiose – and dangerous – pipe dreams. And the American people will be forced to pay the piper for a fix that will only exacerbate a broken system.

    ALG Perspective:
    America cannot afford more Big Government, and Americans certainly do not want to spend the next two centuries digging out of trillions of dollars of debt. The only way to break the addiction to spending is to get Big Government onto the wagon of fiscal responsibility, and keep it there by limiting its powers and reach. There should be a balanced budget amendment and a line item veto amendment proposed, mandatory across-the-board budget cuts legislated, and the growth of spending must be controlled below population and inflation.

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