Expanding an Ineffective Government Solves Nothing

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By DJ Rippert

The failure of American government at all levels is on display with COVID-19.

Is our ever expanding government working? The percentage of U.S. Gross Domestic Product spent on government has been increasing for the past 50 years. While the percentage rises during recessions and falls during good economic times the trend-line is clear. Government, at all levels, is consuming ever more of America’s economic output. Despite this continuing rise in government consumption, many progressive politicians press for even more government spending as a percentage of GDP. But what are we getting for all that spending? Is our ever-growing government becoming more effective, more capable, and better able to help and protect Americans? Evidence over the past 20 years casts doubt on the argument that more / bigger government means better government.

Your government failed you. On Sept 11, 2001, terrorists attacked the United States using commercial airliners. Nobody alive on that day will forget the horrific images of crashing planes, collapsing buildings and posters with pictures of the missing. How did America’s government let this happen? Richard Clarke thinks he knows. Clarke was National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism for the United States between 1998 and 2003. He served in both the Clinton and Bush Administrations. At the 9/11 Commission hearings Clarke was succinct, “Your government failed you.” Clarke would go on to write a book with that title. Today Americans are still fighting bravely and dying in the wars and conflicts spawned by 9/11. Some of our combatants are fighting in wars that started before they were born. A good title for the sequel to Clarke’s original book could be titled “Your government is still failing you.” And government spending in America grows and grows.

The Great Recession. In the run up to the Great Recession of 2008 our government instituted a series of ill conceived policies that turned America’s banking industry into a house of cards. Inevitably that house of cards came tumbling down. Once again our government was caught flat footed. Successive presidential administrations, both Republican and Democratic, abandoned sensible requirements for bank liquidity. Conservatives de-regulated while Progressives insisted that mortgages had to be offered to borrowers who were not credit worthy. They argued that the government, partly in the form of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, would ensure the success of this effort. Senator Barney Frank said, “These two entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are not facing any kind of financial crisis. The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.” Both institutions were at the epicenter of the resulting meltdown. And government spending in America grows and grows.

And the beat goes on. Today America is in the throes of the COVID-19 epidemic. Chaos reigns supreme. Our federal government couldn’t organize a testing regime. South Korea readily deployed just such a regime. Reagents in the initial set of US test kits were faulty. South Korea’s reagents worked fine. Governors across the country spastically stabbed in the dark oscillating between lassiz-faire and lockdown. After more than a month of fumbling, draconian measures are now the order of the day across America. The Federal Reserve estimates one third of Americans will be unemployed. The predictable Congressional response is to run the monetary printing presses ever faster. The Coronavirus runs rampant across America while South Koreans get back to work having effectively beaten back the disease. And government spending in America grows and grows.

Old Dominion Blues. Virginia has its own set of government-inspired fiascos. Mark Warner pledged during his campaign that he would not raise taxes only to almost immediately do just that once elected. He is now one of the U.S. Senators from Virginia. Bob McDonnell couldn’t resist falling into cahoots with a huckster named Jonnie Williams. Stunningly, his actions were legal under Virginia law. Despite the obvious influence of special interest money in Virginia unlimited campaign contributions are still legal. Terry McAuliffe couldn’t (or wouldn’t) maintain order over what should have been a simple protest by meatheads in Charlottesville. The resulting tragedy left three people dead. Ralph Northam whipsawed from a blackface scandal to lying about the scandal to half-cocked comments around infanticide to a half-baked response to COVID-19 while our General Assembly went on a delirious spending spree during their recently recessed session. And government spending in America grows and grows.

Of lemmings and useful idiots. Government apologists across America and across Virginia see no reason to stop throwing increasing amounts of good money after bad on an obviously incompetent government and its obviously ineffective programs. Epidemics are nothing new in America or Virginia. From smallpox carried by European settlers to yellow fever in 1793 to the Spanish flu in 1918 to the flu outbreak of 1958 to MERS, SARS and H1N1 epidemics are well … almost epidemic. Yet when faced with the relatively predictable outbreak of the Coronavirus we don’t have the test kits, can’t make working reagents, lack ventilators, have too few hospital beds and look like the Keysone Cops in our national response. Our tax-more-spend-more crowd rush behind a government that is clearly out of control with nary a thought as to the implications of the almost inevitable recession or depression that will result. That recession or depression will be the next government-inspired disaster that “nobody could predict.” The tax-and-spend crowd, many of whom have spent their lives sucking at the teat of government, rail against any criticism of that government. Now is not the time to hold our free-spending government accountable for its floundering they say. In the minds of the tax-and-spend crowd the time to hold government accountable never comes. The next crisis and the next inept government response will take center stage before any accounting of the last crisis occurs. And government spending in America grows and grows.