Summarizing the federal government is not easy. There’s nearly $4 trillion of spending to disentangle. There’s a 75,000-page tax code to decipher. And there’s a regulatory morass that defies understanding.
So when people ask me questions about the cost of the federal government, there’s never a satisfactory answer.
I sometimes respond by pointing to sub-par growth rates during periods when the burden of government is expanding.
For what it’s worth, I think the best way of approaching such questions is to look at broad measures of statism vs. markets, such as you get with the Economic Freedom of the World rankings, and then compare nations with better scores and those with worse scores.
Though if I’m feeling snarky, I sometimes direct people to my collection of cartoons that simply portray government as a blundering, malicious, incompetent blob.
Today, though, I’m going with a different approach.
We’re going to try to capture the spirit of Washington. And we have a couple of videos, each of which deals with one tiny aspect of Leviathan, but they both do an excellent job of showing the perverse zeitgeist of this parasitical town.
Last year, I wrote about a grotesque example of waste at one of the new bureaucracies created by the Dodd-Frank bailout bill.
The head of that bureaucracy recently testified before a House Committee at was asked what steps were being taken to protect the interests of taxpayers. Here’s a video of the exchange.
Wow. Lots of taxpayer money flushed down a toilet and this Obama appointee cavalierly says “why does that matter to you?”
This is the fiscal equivalent to Hillary Clinton saying “what difference at this point does it make” about four butchered Americans.
And kudos to Congresswoman Wagner for saying it matters because it was the American people’s money (though I’ll wait to see how she votes on the Export-Import Bank to see whether she was posturing or if she actually cares about protecting other people’s money).
Now let’s look at our second video.
You probably didn’t realize that there was something called a Raisin Administrative Committee, but you probably won’t be surprised to learn that the federal government has Soviet-style rules that give this Committee cartel-like powers over raisin growers.
Check out this video from Reason TV to see an example of bizarre, stupid, and destructive government intervention.
But the main lesson of this video is that it symbolizes the federal government. The well-connected insiders benefit and ordinary people suffer.
P.S. Remember the powerful graph showing that giant increases in education spending have had no positive impact on student performance?
Well, here’s the equivalent chart from the world of mass transit. Spending has skyrocketed but ridership is stagnant.
Yet another reminder that government is just a giant money pit of waste (and a reminder that we should also abolish the Department of Transportation).