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.

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44 responses to “Expanding an Ineffective Government Solves Nothing

  1. Geeze – saying that govt does not fix things because things are still broke is a little like saying VDOT is a “failed govt agency” because it has not gotten rid of congestion or Schools are “failed” because we still have kids that are not sufficiently educated or for that matter that Medical science is a failure because it has not figured out cancer yet.

    Sorry Charlie. That dog don’t hunt except for simplistic thinking.

    If anyone thinks govt is a “failure”, I invite you to visit the 100 or so countries in the world that actually do have “small govt” and uber free market and see how you like it.

    Our lives in developed countries is infinitely better than 3rd world but anyone who thinks it ought to be nirvana or it’s a failure needs a re-boot.

    • Click on the link to the expanded graph and then stare at that graph. Government spending in America is exploding not only in total dollars but as a percentage of GDP. Those are simple facts, Larry. Now the question – has our exploding government spending generated a similar explosion in government effectiveness.

      Hint: This is not a hard question.

      • Absolutely the increased spending has increased government effectiveness.

        More people than ever derive their livelihood from government spending, either as a direct employee or as a contractor.

        Isn’t that the ultimate measure of government effectiveness…how many people are suckling at the local, state, and Federal teat?

        • good point. NOVA is one of the biggest teat suckers in the UNION as DJ does KNOW!

          • Not just NOVA, it’s the entire state. How many of your neighbors down there in Spotsy clog up I95 getting to the teat every morning?

    • No. VDOT is a failed government agency because they can’t fix a pothole without you needing to get your county supervisor involved, or because they can’t fix a misconfigured traffic signal in 2 years, or because you have to hire someone to line their ditch with rocks because they can’t be bothered to do anything about the erosion problem that’s sending your front yard to the Chesapeake Bay (or even call you back about the problem).

      • right – they’re “failed” because of all the things they did not do that you wanted done – but you still use all the roads they DO maintain, right?

        this is the issue with the “anti” folks… they’re half-glass types..

        unless VDOT does everything right – they’re “failed”.

        and each “anti” guy has a different thing they’ve failed at…

  2. Evidence over the past 20 years casts doubt on the argument that more / bigger government means better government.

    How can we have an effective government if one political party in this country has spent the last four decades saying government is bad and doing everything in their power to ensure that outcome?

    “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.”

    I rail against unfounded criticism of government – namely the fiction that private companies are always less bureaucratic than government and that the private sector is always more efficient. I was a soldier, I’ve worked in state government, and I’ve worked for a large public corporation. Large organizations of humans (whether private or government) produce large bureaucracies and inefficiencies.

    “Now is not the time to hold our free spending government accountable for its floundering they say.”

    Now is the time to hold both the government accountable as well as the political party who has spent four decades making government terrible so they can say that government is terrible.

    • Where in my article did I say anything about private companies? As far as political parties – I think your arguments are so far out into space that they would have to squint to see the Earth. If you want evidence of Democratic political wrongdoing – just look at Dick Saslaw and Eileen Filler-Corn in Virginia. Both are deeply in the pocket of Dominion. Where is the moral outrage from the left about that? Where are the calls from anti-corporitists like yourself to get those two out of leadership positions? Those calls aren’t being made because partisans don’t really care about special interest money in politics as long as that money is going into the pockets of their preferred political hacks.

      • Boy, you’re barking up multiple wrong trees today.

        How long has the GOP in Virginia been “in charge” of this?

        Why, only now, is it the Dems “fault”?

        How about a balanced article?

        • More trolling. Saslaw and Filler-Corn defeated the proposed legislation to limit campaign contributions from regulated entities in Virginia this session. This session. At a time when Democrats hold the trifecta in Virginia with the governorship, the Senate and the House of Delegates.

          You are fooling yourself Larry. Nothing has changed with regard to corruption in Virginia. It has been reinforced by the Democrats. What has changed is that the Democrats are on a tax and spend bender in the state. More corrupt and ineffective state government through the further confiscation of private property.

          • Nope. They did indeed do that , JUST LIKE the GOP did that for years in front of them.

            WHY are you holding the Dems to a different standard?

            and WHY, when you hammer on LIBS should you really expect
            anything from them when you oppose them to start with?

            So you’re gonna bang on the “libs” right and left for all their bad traits and all the GOPs bad traits also? geeze.

            geeze.. guy.. trolls are the LEAST of your issues, here!

          • Maybe the Dems should be held to a different standard because they represent “change”?

      • “As far as political parties – I think your arguments are so far out into space that they would have to squint to see the Earth.”

        “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.”

        Who said the above quote?

        “Where are the calls from anti-corporitists like yourself”

        I’m not an “anti-corporitist.”

        • I am kind of an anti-corporatist. If we need to amend the US and state constitutions to get special interest money out of politics I say start the amendment process. Big business, Big labor, Big agriculture, Big education and Big environmentalists all have too much power over American politics.

      • I don’t understand how you contend that Saslaw and Filler-Corn defeated Peterson’s legislation. The bill died in committee by a vote of 5-10. Saslaw was not on the committee. Five of the negative votes were Republican. Given the narrow split in the Senate, if even three of those Republicans had voted for it (Saslaw does not influence them), it would have passed the full Senate. It did not even make it to the House, so Filler-Corn had no impact.

        I am not a fan of Filler-Corn, but it is hard to contend that she is in the pockets of Dominion. She received no campaign contributions from that company last year.

  3. Who has said that bigger government is, by definition, better government?
    Who has said that government should not be held accountable? Isn’t that why we hold elections?

    • well, it’s sort of the mother of all strawmans…but it has a nice
      ring to it for the anti-govt types.

    • If bigger isn’t better then why do we keep taking more and more of America’s GDP for government? Really Dick – we’ve been vastly expanding government at all levels since World War II. How has that helped us? Vietnam? The gas crisis? Etc. Etc.

      As far as holding the government accountable – who is holding Eileen Filler-Corn and Dick Saslaw accountable for their special interest love of Dominion? Nobody. As for elections – end the gerrymandering, move to even year elections and severely cap the contributions from special interests and we might have a chance at informed elections. Virginia’s politicians have rigged the electoral process to maintain politicians for life. The first step is to expose that rigging of democracy. But the Richmond-apologists won’t do that.

  4. Permit me to propose an alternative to the false dichotomy that some participants in this blog insist upon imposing upon the debate.

    (1) Our 21st-century society needs government to carry out core functions, one of which is public safety and health.
    (2) However, the government we have is too large, too bureaucratic and too ineffective.
    (3) What we need is (a) a smaller government that (b) does a better job of carrying those its core functions.

    Let me further suggest that the way to do a better job does not always entail spending more money and hiring more bureaucrats. More layers of government bureaucracy can slow decision-making and slow responses to crises.

    • Of course you are right. But trolls will be trolls.

      The title of this post should have made my point clear – “Expanding an ineffective government solves nothing” The first word is “expanding”. The graph is all about expansion in the context of a growing GDP. Every paragraph ended with the sentence … “And government spending in America grows and grows.”

      There was never even a hint of the absurd idea that government shouldn’t exist. The question is whether our government is sufficiently competent and effective to justify further RELATIVE expansion as a larger and larger proportion of our national output.

      • calling those you disagree with trolls – is a problem.

        there are honest divergent views – your views are not the truth
        from on high.

        get over that.

        • You do provide humor, I’ll give you that. Your previous comment ….

          “well, it’s sort of the mother of all strawmans…but it has a nice
          ring to it for the anti-govt types.”

          Nothing but trolling there.

    • re: ” (2) However, the government we have is too large, too bureaucratic and too ineffective.
      (3) What we need is (a) a smaller government that (b) does a better job of carrying those its core functions.”

      That’s a subjective view AND those that disagree with you can also call that a false dichotomy.

      and people who disagree are NOT trolls – unless you really want to just try to impose your own beliefs….

      Do you REALLY think govt is too big right now? If so, how about dealing
      with that also?

      come on guys… can you debate on the merits without impugning those you disagee with?

    • And another most relevant question is not the size or the effectiveness of government but who owns the right to write the rules that run our government? That isn’t totally defined by party as some have said about Virginia’s new majority, although a great many rules have been changed this year.

  5. Here is a live example from Fairfax County. Here is a link to the 2016 Lines of Business Review. https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/budget/lines-business-lobs-2016 Fairfax County identified almost 400 major operations/functions and investigated the need and value thereof. They had done an earlier review the previous decade.

    Guess what the County found? Not only was everything essential but the County should do more. And the vast majority of LOBs were deemed to be essential. Meanwhile, the average real estate tax bill for residents (not counting FY21, which is unknown), went up by 25% over the last five years. That greatly exceeds the rate of increase in personal incomes and is not sustainable. What did the BoS advertise for FY21 (pre COVID-19)? A combination of assessment increases and tax rate increases that averaged another 5% plus.

    A number of the new supervisors want to issue bonds to cover the costs of their new programs, which are probably dead because of the pandemic and its effects. But the County is already at 90% of its bonding limit that is required to keep a AAA bond rating and the County’s excessive pension costs have caused analysts to question the County’s AAA credit worthiness.

    This is not good and effective government. And it’s no more sustainable than building 50 new coal generation plants would be.

  6. Neither will electing it again.

    2020 Republican National Convention candidate speech:
    The Chinese misreported! The CDC was slow to respond! The Democrats created a hoax! I locked my keys in the car! An old friend came in from out of town! Someone stole my car! There was spring break! A terrible flood! Mardi Gras! IT WASN’T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD!

    • the dog ate my homework……….

      been there – seen that – yup the excuses are flying like
      what happens after a meal of beans.

      • I’ve said this before, but all you need to know is what happened on January 24/25. The NSC provided the President and the Senate Intelligece Committee a TS brief on COVID. The President then told us that everything is okay, and 4 Senators sold their portfolios.
        Can you say, “pump and dump”?

        • In late February, NY Governor Cuomo boasted about his state’s accessibility to foreign travelers—his state, the governor said on February 26, is the “front door” for visitors from around the world—while only instituting voluntary quarantines for suspected coronavirus carriers. Tourists and business travelers continued to pour into the Big Apple during the first several days of March without any comprehensive screening or restriction.

          Cuomo last week again bragged about his state’s open arms, which resulted in New York’s current crisis. The reason New York now has so many more cases of coronavirus, even more than California, is “because we welcome people from across the globe,” he said on March 25. “We have people coming here, we have people who came here from China, who came here from Italy, who came here from all across the globe.”

          It all still stems from the fact that the progressives’ goddess was not elected president in 2016. How could people not follow the clear directions of the MSM, especially those who write editorials? (I supported Gary Johnson.)

  7. johnrandolphofroanoke

    194 years ago on April 8th two Virginians, Henry Clay and John Randolph had a famous duel near Arlington. It all started with Randolph giving a speech in Congress and he essentially calls Clay “card cheat”. That was it! There must be a duel to satisfy the “honor code” amongst Virginia born gentlemen. Both men brought witnesses and surgeons. I don’t think either one really wanted to take the other down. Randolph’s pistol misfired while counting paces. Clay let him reload and try again. After ten paces, Randolph fires wildly. Clay calmly fires back putting a substantial bullet hole in Randolph’s coat. The matter was concluded.

    http://www.markerhistory.com/clay-and-randolph-duel-marker-c-1/

  8. johnrandolphofroanoke

    PS: I think John Randolph of Roanoke, perhaps the last Jeffersonian, would agree with Mr. DJ. The expansion of government, the cost of the expansion, and what the people get in return are out of balance.

  9. One of the big problems is that we can do one or two things really well, or multiple things less well. Our federal government was initially constrained by the Constitution. Since then, politicians have expanded the role of that government, and the courts have allowed it. The more things it tries to get done, the less effective it becomes. This is problematic in every institution that comes to my mind. It’s one thing when the government is tasked with national defense and interstate commerce, it’s quite another when we promote the government to the level of Our Savior.

  10. Been spending many days trying to keep up with the deluge of new regulations and guidance, much of which is clear as mud. While at the same time trying to keep a small number of “high anxiety” employees from going over the cliff and pulling everyone else off with them. Spending a lot of time doing things the quell the anxiety. Lots of misinformation floating around, plus the irresponsible media’s fascination with body count. Employee makes a suggestion… sounds reasonable, good… oh but wait, OSHA and-or DOL effectively says No.

    Many SB don’t have the administrative resources. Can’t imagine how many small business operators are ever going to be able to comply.

    Herring says “we’re going after price gouging. Report gouging to us”… I know its mostly for show but the last thing SB needs is to be threatened. A few unreasonable customers think the sale price is all profit and looking to “get even.”

    Hearing the much-heralded SBA free money grab is a mess. Some banks dropping-out due to unclear guidance.

    Keep being told, cancel non-emergency doctors appointments so medical staff isn’t overwhelmed…. but finding out smaller practices are closing due to lack of business. This is just driving more “business” to the big hospitals. Amazon and Walmart hiring… clearly this is benefiting them.

    New regs only apply to business under 500 employees. First thought, surely big business must be exempted due to other regs already being in place. Hearing “nope”, they just carved out an exception.

    Not saying this assault on SB was planned, so much as the capabilities of SB is misunderstood… decades of lobbying by big business, the public sector has lost touch. There’s clearly a huge disconnect between the government and the reality of small businesses sector.

    Overreacting Northam needs to display some leadership, not fear

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