Reducing Government

Author: Gary Hart

The best military in the world; domestic law enforcement; cleaner air and water; safer food and drugs; highways, roads, and bridges; Social Security; Medicare and Medicaid; a judicial system; embassies around the world; space exploration; bank insurance; safer vehicles; national laboratories; air traffic control; support for education; health research; assistance to the elderly, the disabled, and poor children; loans to small business; national parks, recreation, and wilderness areas; national forests; disaster relief and recovery; cleanup of industrial waste; support for veterans; a 220 year old democratic system=government.

The anti-government forces, so noisy of late, have yet to state with any specificity which of these functions (all of which they enjoy, including large federal payments to Alaska), they would like to get rid of.  Until they do, their seriousness must be questioned.  It used to be “waste, fraud, and abuse”, that is until we entered a long period of mostly conservative administrations during which the size and cost of government did not go down.

This “debate” about the size and role of government will not get serious until the Tea Party and others tell us exactly what they want to get rid of.

12 Responses to “Reducing Government”

  1. Debbie Lackowitz Says:

    Mr. Hart. For thirty years, we have been on this road. Less government. Government is the problem, NOT the solution! Our conservative friends, what exactly have they done to diminish government? Nothing. In fact, government continues spending, while also cutting taxes. A recipe for disaster. And it is now upon us. But, let us look further. They actually wanted this to happen. To literally ‘defund’ government so they could then cut all the entitlements they abhor. That was their scheme, and so far it has worked. They HAVE bankrupted us as a nation. And then they have the nerve to scream about the deficit. Which was created by THEM for the sole purpose of defunding entitlements. Have they won? They might, come November 2nd. And folks, let me be a prognosticator here. Be careful what you wish for, you JUST might get it. And you won’t like it. It’s back to Dickens’ London. Kids on the street begging. Old folks eating cat food cause they don’t have Social Security to back them up. Medicare? HA HA! Goodbye to that too! Oh, but let me put your mind to rest. There will ALWAYS be money for the Pentagon! And there will ALWAYS be cash for the wealthy! They own the place now! Hope you like Third World America, cause that’s what we’re gonna get with this election! You asked for it, YOU got it!

  2. Gill Winograd Says:

    If the debate were serious, that is based on facts, logic, and openly debated values, we would be in good shape regardless of the outcome. Instead we have a mass psychosis of conspiracy theorists who see themselves as victims, immune to facts, logic, and discussion of values. This is the necessary, but not sufficient condition for dictatorship and genocide — a people who are persuaded they are victims of malevolent hidden forces with satanic powers. It only remains to focus on a particular scapegoat and find a leader to follow. Immigrants and Muslims would seem to be the leading candidates right now but blacks, Jews, and other traditional scapegoats are still there for the right demagogue to demonize.

    Paul Krugman says we’re on the road to being a banana republic. I hope he’s wrong, put it’s no longer a laughable implausibility.

  3. Brian Says:

    Mr. Hart,
    This is exactly the why the Republican party was kicked out of power. They didn’t have, as you would say, courage of their convictions. As a libertarian, I am hopeful they will follow through on their promises to slash government. This is why they cannot become a majority in the long term. Until they are consistent, cutting the military as well as the welfare state, giving us more freedoms in our personal lives just like in our economic activities. My inner idealist hopes that there will be a hostile takeover of the Republican party by libertarians. Like that’ll happen.

    @Debbie: Firstly, being for smaller government (consistently, which means the military would not be shielded from cuts) does not make you an anarchist, just like being for a larger safety net doesn’t make one a communist. For example, I support localizing public education and education standards, which would mean significant cuts to the Department of Education, if not combining it with the Department of Health and Human Services, but there is still a government role in education. Secondly, there is no reason to believe a smaller government and smaller safety net would make us a third world nation. There is actually an argument to made that there is a correlation between size income inequality and the size of government. Sure, in theory larger government can decrease income inequality, but in practice it increases. The less government there is, the less power the rich and large corporations have (as they own most of our lawmakers in both parties at least indirectly).

  4. Jeff Simpson Says:

    The political product being hawked by the right doesn’t stand up well to close scrutiny, but from an emotional perspective it is a masterpiece: Lazy people want you to pay for them, and this one that I saw on the back of a pickup the other day: “if you don’t support victory, then you don’t support the troops.” The sad conflation of supporting our boys and girls in uniform and persisting in following a horribly flawed foreign policy strategy again shows the jingoistic, subjective nature of the right’s appeal.

  5. Gary Hart: Reducing Government « In The News « Obama America Says:

    [...] To comment, please visit Senator Hart's blog at: http://www.mattersofprinciple.com/?p=553 [...]

  6. Morgan Pitts Says:

    Senator Hart,

    Thank you for bringing this critical point up. I’m very tired of tea partiers talking about how they want to “reclaim America” but then have absolutely no idea from whom they want to reclaim it, or what exactly they want to do when they have finished reclaiming it.

    I wish more would continue to shout this question so we might be able to actually have some sort of discussion.

  7. David Smith Says:

    Well, if we are to talk about reducing the size of government, I think there are a number of places to start.

    The USDA currently spends massive amounts on subsidies, and miniscule amounts on enforcement. We subsidize tobacco, corn- much of which is processed into the much-maligned corn syrup additives used to add empty calories to processed foods. These subsidies are propping up Monsanto, ADM, and other factory farms. Farm subsidies are corporate welfare, and I think that’s the last thing we need.

    Our military is the best in the world, but just how big does it really NEED to be? It seems that our overwhelming power encouraged us to be lazy in our treatment of Bush’s claims leading up to the Iraq invasion. Too many Americans, including Democratic leaders like Hilary Clingon, just didn’t seem to think that we’d pay a price in blood or treasure for that decision, and no one made a serious attempt to stop it, except a few principled representatives and senators like Russ Feingold and Ron Paul. Do we need troops based in Europe anymore? Or in Japan?

    I will admit a soft spot in my heart for the space program – I was named in part after Neil Armstrong. That said, the Shuttle program dragged on far after it should’ve become apparent that the shuttles were dangerous and horrifyingly expensive. The amount of space exploration we could’ve done if we’d abandoned the sunk-cost-fallacy that we had to ‘recoup’ our investment in the Shuttle is almost enough to bring a tear to my eye.’

    Some government is absolutely necessary. Even perennial right-wing whipping boys like the EPA can serve a vital purpose. But at the same time, we need to understand that the taxes we take from Americans really are theft – benevolent theft, but theft nonetheless – and see if the money we are spending is REALLY necessary. Massive multinational corporations like ADM, Monsanto, GM, and Boeing really should be getting by on the strength of their products, not the strength of their political connections.

  8. David Smith Says:

    Ahem – “Clingon” should be “Clinton”. Oops.

  9. Gill Winograd Says:

    Could you tell me what was objectionable in my last post that kept it off the blog? Thanks.

  10. Craig Green Says:

    Senator Hart:

    You failed to mention that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid alone are upside down for more than 40 Trillion dollars, unsustainable without massive spending cuts. All other federal spending combined is upside down for another 20 Trillion, all according to David Walker, former Comptroller General of the U.S.(see http://www.pgpf.org).

    Since I don’t seek election, I can honestly answer your question about spending cuts. The U.S. (federal) Government should not spend one dollar on anything not authorized by the Constitution.

    Only the military, law enforcement and courts in your list should be retained, all significantly reduced to provide only protection and defense of individual rights.

    *
    “The American Republic will endure until Congress learns that it can bribe the people with the people’s money.” -Alexis de Tocqueville
    *

    Craig Green in Golden, Colorado

  11. Kelly Valenzuela Says:

    There is an answer, people have been calling for it (albeit in small numbers), people like you just don’t listen or look for it.

    The only proper, moral function of government is to protect rights, period. That means the courts, the military and the police, period. Private industry can take care of all the rest.

    If you’d like to learn more, you can read “Government Funding in a Free Society” by Ayn Rand from her book “The Virtue of Selfishness.” Her book “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal” is superb as well.

    Americans like to pretend they know what capitalism is, but the fact of the matter is that we’ve always had a mixed economy to one degree or another. The closer to statism we get, the worse things get, the closer to capitalism we get, the better things get. (You’d think politicians would’ve figured that out by now, but I think they’re too blinded by their power-lust.”

  12. Ryan Says:

    I don’t believe cutting government spending will solve anything, but cutting business spending on lobbying, might.

    My solution is clear and easy.
    1. discontinue all the bush-era tax cuts.
    2. Use all those revinues to fund R&D, creating new growth sectors, or for small business loans targetting sectors experiencing high growth.
    3. Across the board budget cuts–distribute the cuts evenly and restructure as necessary.
    4. Additionally, if the civil court system could level the playing field between the rich and poor then strategic deregulation could spur growth; but only if consumers have recourse to recoup losses resulting from theft and fraud.

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