About “There’s Too Much Government In My Life”
In his First Inaugural Address, confronted by a dim economic outlook, President Ronald Reagan declared his intention to reverse the course of government expansion by stating: “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Thirty years later – with both political parties holding power for extended periods of time – the size and scope of the United States government has reached a new apex. During the next fiscal year, the federal budget is expected to exceed $3.5 trillion, with over $1 trillion in deficits, and the debt-to-GDP ratio is projected at 106.9%. In short, the end of “the era of big government” has not come to pass.
Earlier this year, budget negotiations inside the Beltway moved beyond numbers to a referendum on the proper size and role of the federal government. This debate, fundamental to the nature of our Republic, has sparked two major populist movements, and is likely to dominate the national conversation into the 2012 presidential election. We proposed the following resolution: “There’s too much government in my life.”
Supporters of this resolution argue that government has run amok and has strayed far beyond the Founders’ original intent of securing the rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” High taxes, regulatory excesses, and bureaucratic engineering have levied high costs on business and have dampened economic growth and prosperity. In addition, entitlement spending, which accounts for nearly 40% of federal budget outlays, is unsustainable on its current trajectory and must be fundamentally restructured. We have reached a tipping point, and government must do–and spend–less rather than tax more.
Opponents contend that reducing government spending is exactly the wrong course of action in these times, when the government must play a positive role in job creation, providing health, education and welfare for its citizenry, and protecting against the excesses of the wealthy few. Reducing the size of government would lead to unacceptable reductions in national defense, social welfare, environmental protection, consumer safety, and other public goods. Further, while the majority of America tends to distrust big government, individuals are hesitant to go without many of the goods and services provided, particularly in a time of economic strife.