Skip to comments.A government limited to what?
Posted on 09/04/2002 11:06:40 AM PDT by RJCogburn
LIMITED GOVERNMENT. We hear that conservative mantra a lot, especially at election time. Shake a tree in southern New Hampshire this campaign season and chances are at least one Republican candidate for Congress will fall out, proclaiming limited government three times before touching the ground.
Its counterpart is never heard. No one campaigns, at least not openly, for unlimited, or absolutist, government. No, its always limited government. Limited government today, limited government tomorrow, limited government forever!
Somehow we never seem to wonder why, after years of electing candidates sworn to limited government, the government keeps growing in size and cost. The federal government is bigger and, at $2 trillion-plus and rising, a good deal costlier now than it was just seven years ago, when Republicans took control of Congress in the Republican Revolution. Its bigger and costlier than it was six years ago when that poster child for decadent liberalism, William J. Clinton, announced to the nation: The era of big government is over. Big government must have missed the news.
No one seems to notice that this limited government gag is as transparent as the emperors new clothes. We prefer not to notice, really. Its a lot easier to just go on believing in limited government and voting for those who say they do, too. The amazing thing is, we never even ask what ought to be the most obvious question: Limited to what?
Perhaps there was a time when Americans could assume, if they thought about it at all, that limited government meant a federal government that would do only those things it is authorized to do by powers granted in our federal Constitution. But limited government has been taken off the Constitution standard, just as the dollar was long ago taken off the gold standard. Limits on federal power have, like the value of the currency, been allowed to float. And theyre still floating.
Consider, for example, the two members of Congress now competing in New Hampshire for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, Sen. Bob Smith and Rep. John Sununu. Each comes to the voters with impressive conservative credentials. Both get high ratings from all the right organizations. They get Friend of the Taxpayer Awards and ratings above 90 percent from organizations like the American Conservative Union and Citizens Against Government Waste. Theyre both A students, which suggests the currency isnt the only thing thats been inflated.
In their televised debate last week, Smith and Sununu sparred over a prescription drug benefit as an expansion of Medicare. Neither spoke of the need to rein in the bureaucracy and streamline the approval process at the Food and Drug Administration, so the drugs might be less costly to produce. (Time is money, after all.) Each defended his vote in favor of the Bush-Kennedy-Gregg education reform, the No Child Left Behind Act, that allegedly increases local control in 1,184 pages of federal legislation. The scary part is that people who live and work in Washington can actually believe such nonsense.
In our Constitution of delegated powers, there is not one that remotely gives Congress any authority at all over the education of schoolchildren. So the only education reform conservatives should be championing, and the one way to truly increase local control, is the abolition of all federal education programs. But why do that when you can pass nearly 1,200 pages of federal rules and regulations to make local schools more accountable?
Smith charged that Sununu, having once pledged to support the abolition of the National Endowment for the Arts, voted with the Democrats to fund the agency. There are, alas, more than a few Republicans who have voted for that funding, as Smith well knows. And Smith lists among his accomplishments the securing of $500,000 of federal money for the renovation of the Palace Theatre in Manchester. Whether that money came from the NEA or some other agency, the principle is the same. Between them, these two men apparently see the subsidizing of artistic productions and the renovation of a local theater as federal concerns. And these are two of the most conservative members of the U.S. Congress.
Today, with a $2 trillion budget (in deficit by a $165 billion or so), being conservative means you never have to say, Were out of money. A representative or senator could say, if so inclined, that there is nothing in the Constitution that authorizes Congress to spend money on artistic productions or theater renovations. But even the most conservative members of Congress are more likely to be struck by lightning than by a thought of the Constitution. Perhaps its just as well.
The lightning might do some good.
Keep the truck off the sidewalk and it wouldn't happen.
The government's War on Business - "Democrats are demanding something just short of summary executions, while Republicans and President George W. Bush are trying to outdo the Democrats in their anti-business rhetoric"
On the other hand if we have a shadow Gov't then the guys, behind the gals, behind the gays, behind the guys will continue giving us Doles, Bush's x 2, and (lol) Gore's to vote for.
I can hear them laughing as I write this. Maybe Ron Popille can invent a rebellion thats not so bloody and gory. That is if you can find someone willing to stop watching Opreh long enough to fight the good fight, whatever that is.
If there were a rebellion "we'd/They'd" propably kill the wrong people anyway and the whole thing would start all over again. Because one thing is for certain, to me. The movie "Matrix" was right on. Reality, maybe is not it's all up to be.
"The difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense' -Tom Clancy
The Return of Big Government
Federal spending is skyrocketing, but shockingly little of it is related to Sept. 11.
Monday, September 2, 2002
By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
In wartime, as everyone knows, federal spending must go up. The aftermath of Sept. 11 is no different. The U.S. needed to rout al Qaeda from Afghanistan, tighten airport and border security, and heighten its defenses against terrorism. That took gobs of money, so no one begrudges the recent surge in outlays. It's all for a good cause.
Except it isn't. Spending is skyrocketing, but shockingly little of it is related to the Sept. 11 attacks. Budget experts say that only about a third of the additional spending this year can be attributed to the war on terror. The rest is testament to a fact that predates Sept. 11: The era of big government has returned.
Of the programs that Congress and the President control directly, spending is up a whopping 13.9% this fiscal year. And that's not a new phenomenon. Soon after Bill Clinton declared, "The era of big government is over" in 1996, expenditures started to zoom. Such spending is rising so briskly that, for the first time since the late 1960s, annually appropriated programs have been growing faster than formula-driven entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.
Sept. 11 is merely a blip in that trajectory. Despite all the hoopla, only about $30 billion has been spent on homeland security and national defense programs directly related to the antiterror campaign. About $10 billion of that went to the fight in Afghanistan and $20 billion to rebuild New York City, prevent bioterrorism, improve transportation security, and the like. Overall, however, Uncle Sam has spewed out an extra $91 billion in appropriated funds this fiscal year for matters that range from highway construction to medical research.
In other words, the war on terror is being used as a ruse to justify all sorts of spending. President Bush lifted the veil on this deception by withholding $5.1 billion in extraneous expenditures that were buried in a homeland defense bill. But analysts worry that the pattern will become a fixture. Says Bob Bixby of the Concord Coalition, a fiscal watchdog group: "Packaging all manner of spending under the banner of homeland security will become a permanent addition."
Then again, lawmakers don't need much prodding to spend more. Nondefense spending has been increasing so rapidly lately that 2000-03 would still represent the largest four-year spending spree in a generation even if military expenditures hadn't gone up a penny. During that period farm subsidies doubled; unemployment compensation and health programs (other than Medicare and Medicaid) jumped 50%; education outlays rose by a third.
A lot has changed since 1998, when economic boom times created the first federal annual budget surplus since 1969. For four fat years lawmakers got used to spending what they pleased. A mere year ago, in fact, Bush confidently predicted $5.6 trillion in budget surpluses over the next decade and settled for a $1.35 trillion tax cut. But the economic slowdown changed all that. Today Bush will struggle to keep the tax relief he won. Fiscal 2002 will probably post a deficit near $165 billion.
A few shekels of deficit spending isn't necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, the sagging GDP could use some Keynesian stimulation. But so much? In February, Bush asked Congress to hold non-homeland security, non-Pentagon spending to 2% growth next fiscal year. But by May he had signed the most expensive farm subsidy bill in history--$190 billion over ten years. And that after proposing a 4% reduction in agriculture subsidies last year!
Ever since Ronald Reagan's war against government in the 1980s, every President has talked big about making government small. Bush is no exception. In August he told reporters, "It is important for this country to be fiscally disciplined as our economy begins to recover." But federal spending has risen every year since 1965--including under Reagan--and no sane person is predicting that trend will end.
The new emphasis on homeland security will make sure of that. Bush contends that the Department of Homeland Security won't make government larger. But almost no one believes him. He will combine 22 agencies and 170,000 workers to create the most massive new bureaucracy since the Defense Department was created in 1947.
Corporations are rushing to cash in. Since the office of Homeland Security started fielding business propositions last October, more than 1,000 companies have pitched ideas, some of them very strange. One firm wanted to fit every commercial airline seat with metal straps that could ensnare potential hijackers. Another proposed to teach our enemies transcendental meditation in order to calm them down. They didn't make the cut.
But others will, and businesses are gearing up to sell into this multibillion-dollar market. Deloitte Consulting estimates that homeland security programs at the federal level could exceed $30 billion a year.
Will the President allow things to get that far out of hand? Bush has wielded his veto authority less than any President since Franklin Roosevelt; in fact, he hasn't used it at all. White House aides promise that he will--and soon--to force Congress to pare its profligacy. But few think he'll make a dent in the big-government boom.
Bush is a big part of the problem, not the solution