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Posts Tagged ‘Federal Government’

It’s unfortunate that Senator Tom Coburn is retiring. He hasn’t been perfect, but nobody can question is commitment to limited government. He’s been a rare voice in Washington against wasteful spending.

And he’s going out with a bang, having just released the 2014 edition of the Wastebook.

It’s a grisly collection of boondoggles and pork-barrel spending, highlights (though lowlights might be a better term) of which can be seen in this video.

The good news is that the American people increasingly recognize that Washington is a cesspool of waste, fraud, and abuse.

A Gallup Poll from last month, for instance, finds that folks are quite aware that a huge chunk of the federal budget is squandered.

There are two interesting takeaways from this polling data.

First, it’s good to see that there’s been a steady increase in the perception of waste in Washington. That shows people are paying more attention over time. In other words, more and more Americans recognize that the public sector is a sleazy racket for the benefit of bureaucrats, lobbyists, contractors, politicians, cronies, interest groups, and other insiders.

Second, it’s also worth noting that there’s less waste at the state level and even less waste at the local level. These are just perceptions, to be sure, but I suspect people are right. Money is less likely to be squandered when people have a greater opportunity to see how it’s being spent. Which is why federalism is good policy and good politics.

Now let me add my two cents. Government waste doesn’t just occur when money goes to silly projects. From an economic perspective, money is wasted whenever there is a misallocation of potentially productive resources.

And that’s a pretty accurate description of most of the federal budget. Not just discretionary programs, but also entitlement programs.

Here’s my video providing the theoretical arguments against excessive government spending.

And here’s the companion video that reviews the evidence showing that big government undermines prosperity.

And if you want another video, but one that shows horrific government waste presented in an amusing manner, click here.

And if you instead want to get heartburn by reading about disgusting examples of waste, click here, here, or here.

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I’ve written, ad nauseum, about the economic impact of excessive government spending.

But I’ve also acknowledged that Article I, Section VIII of the Constitution grants specific powers to the federal government.

What I’ve neglected to explore, though, is the key issue of how today’s bloated welfare state interferes with and undermines the government’s ability to competently fulfill its legitimate responsibilities.

Imagine, for instance, if we had the kind of limited federal government envisioned by the Founding Fathers and the “best and brightest” people in government – instead of being dispersed across a vast bureaucracy – were concentrated on protecting the national security of the American people.

In that hypothetical world, I’m guessing something like the 9-11 attacks would be far less likely.

I’m mostly thinking about reducing the inefficiency and incompetence of Washington, but the same principle applies to other levels of government.

Using lots of humor and sarcasm, Mark Steyn elaborates on this issue.

In political terms, Hurricane Sandy and the Benghazi consulate debacle exemplify at home and abroad the fundamental unseriousness of the United States in the Obama era. …John Brennan, the Counterterrorism guy, and Tony Blinken, the National Security honcho, briefed the president on the stiff breeze, but on Sept. 11, 2012, when a little counterterrorism was called for, nobody bothered calling the Counterterrorism Security Group, the senior U.S. counterterrorism bureaucracy. …our government is more expensive than any government in history – and we have nothing to show for it. …one Obama bill spent a little shy of a trillion dollars, and no one can point to a single thing it built. “A big storm requires Big Government,” pronounced The New York Times. But Washington is so big-hearted with Big Government it spends $188 million an hour that it doesn’t have – 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including Thanksgiving, Christmas and Ramadan. And yet, mysteriously, multitrillion-dollar Big Government Obama-style can’t doanything except sluice food stamps to the dependent class, lavish benefits and early retirement packages to the bureaucrats that service them, and so-called government “investment” to approved Obama cronies. …Last week, Nanny Bloomberg, Mayor of New York, rivaled his own personal best for worst mayoral performance since that snowstorm a couple of years back. This is a man who spends his days micromanaging the amount of soda New Yorkers are allowed to have in their beverage containers rather than, say, the amount of ocean New Yorkers are allowed to have in their subway system – just as, in the previous crisis, the municipal titan who can regulate the salt out of your cheeseburger proved utterly incapable of regulating any salt on to Sixth Avenue. Imagine if this preening buffoon had expended as much executive energy on flood protection for the electrical grid and transit system as he does on approved quantities of carbonated beverages. But that’s leadership 21st-century style: When the going gets tough, the tough ban trans fats. Back in Benghazi, the president who looks so cool in a bomber jacket declined to answer his beleaguered diplomats’ calls for help – even though he had aircraft and Special Forces in the region. Too bad. He’s all jacket and no bombers. This, too, is an example of America’s uniquely profligate impotence. When something goes screwy at a ramshackle consulate halfway round the globe, very few governments have the technological capacity to watch it unfold in real time. Even fewer have deployable military assets only a couple of hours away. What is the point of unmanned drones, of military bases around the planet, of elite Special Forces trained to the peak of perfection if the president and the vast bloated federal bureaucracy cannot rouse themselves to action? What is the point of outspending Russia, Britain, France, China, Germany and every middle-rank military power combined if, when it matters, America cannot urge into the air one plane with a couple of dozen commandoes? In Iraq, al-Qaida is running training camps in the western desert. In Afghanistan, the Taliban are all but certain to return most of the country to its pre-9/11 glories. But in Washington the head of the world’s biggest “counterterrorism” bureaucracy briefs the president on flood damage and downed trees.

Amen. Four Americans are dead in part because the idiots in Washington are focused on things that are not the proper responsibility of the federal government.

I don’t know if this was his intent, but Steyn just made a very compelling argument for the libertarian vision.

Here are a few of my favorite examples of Steyn’s writings.

This post is about the link between effective government and small government, with the obvious implication that the current federal behemoth is largely incapable of handling its legitimate responsibilities. Well, the flip side is that doesn’t do a good job in areas where it shouldn’t be involved, as cleverly illustrated by this cartoon.

P.S. Speaking of libertarianism, here’s some self-mocking humor. We’ll start with a video portraying Somalia as a libertarian paradise, followed by cartoons on libertarian ice fishing and libertarian lifeguards, then an info-graphic showing 24 types of libertarians, and close with a poster showing how the world sees libertarians.

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I’m not a big fan of the federal government. It does some necessary and important things, such as national defense, but the vast majority of what goes on in Washington is for activities that either belong at the state level or in the private sector.

This is why I want to reform entitlements such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and it’s why I want to shut down entire departments of the federal government, including Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Education, and Agriculture,

Simply stated, I want to go back to the limited central government and constitutional republic envisioned by the Founding Fathers.

With this in mind, you can imagine how agitated I am that the clowns in Washington have decided that it’s their role to investigate possible steroid use in major league baseball. Expressing my scorn, I ranted and raved on Neil Cavuto’s show.

In addition to mocking the absurdity of the Roger Clemens situation, I tried to make an important point about the desirability of shrinking the public sector by about 75 percent, bringing the overall burden of government spending back to about 10 percent of GDP, which is where it was for much of our nation’s history.

Based on Rahn Curve research about the growth-maximizing size of government, this would lead to an economic boom.

But there’s another aspect of the Clemens situation that’s worth exploring.

My former Heritage Foundation colleague Brian McNicoll has some thoughts on the issue, explaining that leftists resent Clemens because of his success.

A related mystery is why the hearing devolved into such a bitter partisan bickering session. …But why? It’s not as if Clemens was known as some big-time conservative. …At least part of it, I think, has to do with how conservatives and liberals view people such as Clemens. Conservatives revere success. They admire self-sacrifice and discipline, and they don’t begrudge the man who parlays these into professional and financial success. They want to be like him and find ways for others to replicate his methods. Liberals believe the Roger Clemenses of the world benefit from a random and thus inherently unfair assignment of talent. They think he’s rich and famous solely because he’s big enough and strong enough to throw a baseball 95 miles per hour. Never mind that not everyone who throws 95 miles per hour has anywhere near the success of Clemens. Never mind lots of people are big enough and strong enough to throw that hard but don’t put in the work to learn the skills it takes to actually do so. Never mind the extraordinary inner strength that even Clemens’ worst detractors admit propelled him throughout his career. This explanation absolves them of all responsibility for the fact they are not Roger Clemens. It’s all luck. He’s just a guy who got wildly rich because of the random assignment of genes. Nobody can have all that ill-gotten gain and any character, so he must have done whatever they say he’s done. And since he did nothing to earn his money, we all deserve a share of it. And wouldn’t it be nice to knock a guy like that down a few pegs?

Brian’s analysis of the left-wing mind makes a lot of sense and certainly is consistent with the mentality that supports class-warfare tax policy.

P.S. Just because national defense is a legitimate function of the federal government, that doesn’t mean the Pentagon should get a blank check. Our Founders would want us to fight against wasteful military spending and needless foreign entanglements.

P.P.S. At the very end of the Cavuto segment, he thanked me for dropping what we originally planned to discuss so we could respond to the breaking news and he kindly said “that’s what makes Dan great.” If I was either braver or more immature (probably the latter), that would have been a perfect moment for me to show that I’m hip to popular culture by blurting out “that’s what she said.” Alas, forever a missed opportunity.

P.P.S. This is the second time Roger Clemens has been featured in this blog. He also made a cameo appearance in this post mocking Obama.

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I wrote last year that, “I don’t think public policy should be based on polling data, but I always am happy when the American people are on the right side of an issue since it increases the possibility of good outcomes in Washington.”

One other thing to consider is that pollsters can manipulate results by changing how they word a question.

But even with those caveats, I feel good about two three new polls. First, from the folks at Gallup,we have two charts showing that the federal government isn’t winning any popularity contests.

And here’s some more data from the Gallup poll, showing that the federal government has the lowest net positive (or in this case, highest net negative) of any segment of the U.S. economy. It even ranks below lawyers and the oil/gas industry.

We also have some numbers from Rasmussen showing that voters are particularly dismayed by the power of the federal government.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 50% of Likely Voters believe the federal government has too much influence over state governments. Just 11% think the federal government does not have enough influence while 26% believe the balance is about right. Thirteen percent (13%) are not sure.  …These results come at a time when just 17% believe the federal government has the consent of the governed and only 14% believe the country is generally heading in the right direction.

I also like that only 17 percent think the federal government “has the consent of the governed.” Sounds like people have figured out that much of what happens in Washington is a racket for the benefit of insiders.

Numbers like these warm my heart – just as happened with recent polls on spending cuts, the VAT, and Social Security reform.

P.S. There’s a new Reason-Rupe poll showing that the American people understand that reducing the burden of government spending will boost the economy, whereas tax increases will just lead to bigger government.

…over 57 percent of Americans say reducing government spending will “mostly help” the economy, according to a new national Reason-Rupe Public Opinion Survey of 1,200 adults. Just 21 percent believe cutting spending will “mostly harm” the economy. …If taxes do go up, Americans don’t trust that the new revenue will be used to reduce the national debt.  When asked what they expect Congress would do with money generated by tax increases, 62 percent of Americans say Congress would spend that money on new programs. Only 27 percent of taxpayers believe Congress would actually use the money to pay down the national debt.

All these results demonstrate the wisdom of the American people (though I reserve the right to re-classify them as ignorant yokels when they disagree with me).

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There’s an encouraging new poll from Gallup which reveals that 72 percent of Americans say something negative when asked for a one-word description of the federal government. Here’s the “word cloud” showing the results. As you can see, this is very similar to the results for a similar poll on how people describe Congress. Not surprisingly, “corrupt” and “incompetent” are prominent in both polls.

Here’s how Gallup describes the results:

A Sept. 20-21 USA Today/Gallup poll asked respondents what they would say “if someone asked you to describe the federal government in one word or phrase.” The accompanying chart shows the results in graphic form, with the words or phrases displayed according to how frequently they are mentioned. …Overall, 72% of responses about the federal government are negative, touching on its inefficiency, size, corruption, and general incompetence, with the most common specific descriptions being “too big,” “confused,” and “corrupt.” …The generally negative top-of-mind images of the federal government are consistent with the poor ratings the government receives in Gallup’s annual update on the images of business and industry sectors. In the most recent update, from August, 58% rated the federal government negatively and 26% positively.

A word of caution is appropriate at this point. I don’t have the link handy, but I recall recently reading that negative views about government don’t necessarily translate into support for smaller government. If my memory is correct, people apparently want more government-provided security in an environment where there is less faith in the competence of government. Doesn’t make sense to me, but I guess it means that all of us need to do a better job of helping people draw logical conclusions.

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For the fourth day in a row, the federal government is shut down because of snow. This causes me mixed feelings. Because federal workers already are so vastly overpaid, part of me is irritated that they are getting what are, for all intents and purposes, extra vacation days. On the other hand, isn’t it better to have bureaucrats sitting at home instead of hunched over their desks figuring out new ways to tax and regulate? And let’s not forget that Harry Reid has been forced to delay the so-called jobs bill because of the snow, so the economy at least will be temporarily spared this new stimulus scam. But then I saw a story that it costs $100 million for each day the government is shut down. This perplexed me. While I have great faith in the ability of government to waste money, how could it cost even more for bureaucrats to stay home? It turns out this number is fake. As the story excerpted below indicates, the $100 million figure is a government estimate of “lost productivity.” For people in the real world, however, fewer IRS audits, fewer OSHA inspections, and fewer Dept. of Energy subsidies translate into higher productivity:

While D.C. residents take out their snow shovels for untold hours of back-breaking labor, the Office of Personnel Management estimates that the shuttering of the federal government is breaking the bank as well — costing taxpayers about $100 million every day in lost productivity, or work that’s not getting done. With Friday’s half day, and three full days of government shut-down this week, that adds up to $350 million — and it could top $500 million if the government, with its 230,000 D.C.-area employees, remains closed through the end of the week.

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