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10.01.2008 0

Beyond Bailouts: America needs a refresher on founding principles

  • On: 10/23/2008 11:33:04
  • In: Economy
  • By Howie Rich

    For a nation built around the twin ideals of individual liberty and limited government, it’s amazing how quickly American policymakers shed these founding principles in times of economic crisis.

    Many, if not most, in Congress, of course, are already predisposed to strong-arm our liberties and suck up our tax dollars. So, all it takes is an “emergency” for their default setting to kick into socialist overdrive.

    This week’s contentious debate over a $700 billion federal bailout – i.e. purchase – of troubled Wall Street assets is the latest in a long line of government excesses aimed at rectifying a problem that Washington fails to recognize is entirely of its own making.

    In addition to the abject failure of both major political parties to control their special interest-fed appetites, government’s creeping paternalism continues to erode our individual and economic freedoms. And it’s all done under the false pretense of individual “empowerment” and the fake allure of a “collective prosperity” that never seems to materialize.

    Take government-sponsored (and now government-owned) mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who five years ago were caught cooking their books and dangerously overextending their financial position thanks to irresponsible, government-mandated loans.

    Consistent with its unsustainable entitlement addiction and unchecked welfare mentality, government once again wanted to force its will on the country – this time by using the quasi-socialist, government-sponsored entities for as the driving mechanism behind providing high-risk home loans to people who couldn’t afford them and coercing banks to lend them the money.

    Now that this strategy has completely (and predictably) imploded, and the fruits of this excess have wreaked havoc on responsible citizens, Washington’s corrupt culture of big government wants to intervene by staking out new territory for itself that has no basis either in constitutionality or common sense.

    How typical. Whatever the crisis, you can bet that Washington’s prescription is more government, more regulation and more of the American people’s tax dollars.

    Founding wisdom in this country has quite simply gone out the window, replaced by an increasingly costly, increasingly socialist interventionism that only compounds itself with each successive institutional failure.

    We haven’t fostered individual responsibility in this country – we’ve fostered dependency and debt. And we haven’t guarded ourselves against unwarranted government expansion – our leaders have actively pursued it as the cure to whatever ails our national economy.

    And for all their talk of “fixing Washington,” both major party presidential candidates went along with the latest bailout plan offered by President George W. Bush and his big government Svengali, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, along with Democratic Congressional leaders.

    Now more than ever, a fundamental rethinking of our approach to government is required.

    The policies of politically-correct paternalism, deficit spending and unchecked entitlement expansion have clearly failed, and to assume that more of the same is going to somehow bring us back from the ledge is ludicrous.

    America doesn’t need a massive expansion of government influence, but a massive reduction of it. America doesn’t need to raise its $10.6 trillion debt, it needs to reduce it. America doesn’t need to drift further away from its founding Democratic ideals, it needs to return to them.

    The coalition of Republican and Democratic lawmakers that rejected the $700 billion bailout plan earlier this week certainly deserves credit for temporarily derailing a terrible idea. But standing against a hugely-unpopular proposal from a hugely-unpopular President in an election year is easy.

    The hard work is reversing the course of government expansion that landed America in this mess to begin with.

    To truly prove its mettle, this bipartisan coalition in the House must now engage a long-term strategy for economic recovery grounded in the ideals of Jefferson and Reagan, not Bush and Pelosi.

    And in doing so, they must restore to the American people the fundamental values of liberty and self-determination that will ultimately ensure their security and prosperity against the encroachment of government-induced dependency.

    Howie Rich is the chairman of Americans for Limited Government.

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