An interesting new book by columnist Bruce Bartlett delivers a stinging attack on the big spending ways of the current administration. The book has a most damning title, "Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy."
First off, let me say that I voted twice for Mr. Bush, primarily because his liberal opponents meant higher taxes and more government. We can agree that he means well, but let’s face it, he’s making government bigger and more obtrusive than ever. Mr. Bartlett writes, "Philosophically, he has more in common with liberals, who see no limits to state power as long as it is used to advance what they think is right. In the same way, Bush has used government to pursue a ‘conservative’ agenda as he sees it. But that is something that runs totally contrary to the restraints and limits to power inherent in the very nature of traditional conservatism. It is inconceivable to traditional conservatives that there could ever be such a thing as ‘big government conservatism,’ a term often used to describe Bush’s philosophy."
No matter how often the government fails, the vast majority of Americans continue to rely on government solutions for whatever problems crop up. Mr. Bush certainly is one of these. Like most politicians, he believes that government can be made to run smoothly and effectively. Mr. Bartlett sums it up. "Right from the beginning, George W. Bush made it clear that he was not a conservative in the Reagan mold…. Even in front of explicitly conservative audiences, Bush continued his theme that government was not the enemy; it just wasn’t being used for the proper ends."
In spite of this brave talk about making government more efficient, an alphabet soup of government failures plague the administration; CIA, FBI, FEMA, CBO AND INS to name a few. What does it take to make politicians see that government is the worst choice for problem solving? Why does government meddling so often make matters worse? It’s because without a bottom line, government has no compass. Without profit or loss there is no objective standard to measure results. Businesses try to cut costs while governments only know how to ask for more money. Furthermore, with affirmative action and credentialism replacing merit in hiring and promotion, talent dries up and diligence goes unrewarded. Congress requires government to follow so many rules they have no flexibility or creativity. Apathy, lack of motivation, waste and bad service plague the government. They will never be more than a bungling bureaucracy. Nevertheless, the next set of candidates will be confident they can make government work efficiently. They never learn.
The mindset that government will solve our problems is ruining America. It fosters socialism through installments. Each candidate uses the government to implement their pet schemes. The $540 billion prescription entitlement was one of Mr. Bush’s favored giveaways. According to Mr. Bartlett, "the Medicare drug bill may well be the worst piece of legislation ever enacted….It will cost vast sums the nation cannot afford….It will inevitably lead to higher taxes and price controls that will reduce the supply of new lifesaving drugs."
The great freedom philosopher Leonard Read wrote in 1961, the "extent to which the government has assumed the responsibility for the security, welfare and prosperity of our people is a measure of the extent to which socialism has developed here in this land of ours."
Mr. Read pointed out that government will print money to pay their bills when it is no longer politically expedient to raise taxes. They don’t hesitate to inflate the money supply and water down the value of the money. Said Mr. Read, "Many people do not realize that they cannot continue to enjoy so-called ‘benefits’ from government without having to pay for them. They do not appreciate the fact that inflation is probably the most unjust and cruelest tax of all. What precisely is this disease that causes inflation and all these other troubles? It has many popular names, such as socialism, communism, state interventionism, and welfare statism."
The size of our government and its spending are running out of control. Pork barrel spending (earmarks) have doubled and redoubled. Foreign aid, war costs and educational spending are surging wildly. Government housing, disaster relief, corporate welfare, and farm subsidies are burgeoning, including those for expensive gasohol. It takes more than a gallon of gas to make a gallon of heavily subsidized gasohol.
Medicare, Medicaid and Prescription Drug payments threaten to break the budget. Every day tens of thousands of retirees undergo expensive surgeries and costly medical treatments. Incalculable numbers of prescriptions are written or renewed. Hospitals are full to the brim and diagnostic procedures maxed out. The Wall Street Journal reports that some new cancer drugs cost up to $100,000 a month. Scores of new drugs and treatments are being rushed to market. The more you subsidize the more you get. The heated demand for a scarce resource (that’s free) drives the price of health care into orbit. Now come the baby boomers.
It’s not going to work. If you’re born after 1965 these social costs will be unaffordable when it’s your turn. The currency will either be worthless or the government will be bankrupt. Socialism can only work until the goose that laid the golden egg is dead. It’s a free lunch now but you’re going to get the crumbs. Assume you’re going to have to fend for yourself. By doing so, you will not only become financially independent, you will also become a bulwark against socialism. That will be of great value in the final showdown between a broken welfare state and limited government.