If the November elections sweep a principled changing of the guard into power in DC, we have a slim chance of seeing this present disastrous expansion of government reversed. The grass roots are rising across the land objecting to spending, deficits, and bloating bureaucracies. The stock market is flashing serious warning signs as Moody’s mentions potential downgrades for US debt. The present administration appears somewhere between terminally tone deaf, and hopelessly stuck on stupid. How can government growth, regulation, and waste be corralled and reduced?
Some valuable lessons were learned when the past administrations tried to eliminate programs and departments. Every handout, subsidy, boondoggle, or obsolete program has a constituency behind it. In the “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine” atmosphere of Congress, the votes to eliminate anything are traded just as carefully as votes to initiate something. The only way to approach this is to build momentum from incremental moves. All these programs and departments were established one at a time. They will have to be cut apart piece by piece and bone by bone in chunks too small to affect any but a small number of beneficiaries.
The best suggestion is to start out with Mathew Lesko’s books and “Free Money Club” on line. House member’s staffers could cull the thousands of government giveaway programs and bills could be written to eliminate them one or only a few at a time. “Small potatoes” some will say, but when Congress wastes time on stupid resolutions like honoring some ball team, entertainer, or athlete, they could certainly take the time to vote on a couple wasteful programs each day. Since each bill would be eliminating very limited target, the possibility of a majority voting against it would be minimized.
The next step is earmark reform. The public is sick and tired of these blatant efforts by Congress to fund pet projects in return for votes and political contributions. The present bunch of incumbents is deaf to the outrage and they will pay the price in November. A crop of new representatives and senators with some momentum could use the tailwind of a landslide election and the expectations of their supporters to end the practice once and for all. Concrete rules have to be established that amendments must apply directly to whatever bill is under consideration.
Ronald Reagan said government reaction to business was “If it moves, tax it. If it continues to move, regulate it. If it stops moving, subsidize it.” Taxing and borrowing to subsidize failure is ludicrous. The government taxes successful individuals and businesses, borrows billions abroad, and funds pathetic economic black holes like wind farms and light rail. No sane person would buy a car that only worked 25% of the time, but wind farms do exactly that, which is why they are not being built by private enterprise without huge subsidies from the federal government.
Rails were invented because the motive power in the 1800s was too heavy to move about on roads. Cars and airplanes evolved to improve transportation, but we are stuck carrying Amtrack at huge losses because a few romantics think trains are still necessary. Heavy rail moves freight efficiently, but people need to move faster than freight. Worse, light rail which became obsolete with the invention of efficient busses is now being built at tremendous cost in cities where it will never be viable. The per passenger/ride subsidies create financial drains forever. Ethanol fuel consumes more energy in its production than it delivers when burned. Dumping corn in stills to make lousy motor fuel instead of feeding it to people and animals is a gross misallocation of resources. If light rail, wind farms, and ethanol can’t make a profit, the government has no business wasting hundreds of billions each year on them and other such economic losers.
The only way to eliminate some of these massive expenditures in dead ends is to introduce bills individually where urban representatives can vote against farm subsidies and rural representatives can help kill rail and other utopian foolishness. These will have to be broken down even farther perhaps; stopping Seattle light rail one month and chopping the Twin Cities another time. Ethanol could go in one bite, dairy products in another, and crop by crop, the rest of the farm support would be gone. Does anyone really think that American agriculture will stop producing if it were to operate as a self supporting industry?
De Tocqueville warned 180 years ago that the American Experiment would likely fail once the people realized they could vote themselves money. He was right, but the past few generations of politicians have been too busy buying votes instead of paying heed to his warnings. We stand on the edge of the abyss. For the love of our country and its future citizens, we must seize this moment and save their future before it turns to ashes.