The Demand For A Larger Federal Government

March 10, 2012 § 1 Comment

The fiscal deficit is not the only deficit that needs to be discussed. There is an overall deficit between the public and the federal government.

We all hear, and the polls indicate, congressional approval rating is at an all time low and slightly above communism but much more can be learned from these new findings.

Public trust in government was near 80% under LBJ and sharply dropped after his policies and the Vietnam War. Again it rose under Reagan and Clinton but has declined since 9/11 (pg. 1, chart included). Former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman often spoke of the ‘trust deficit’ between the people and government. With polls, protests and MSM all indicating the same thing, one would suspect the citizenry demanded for smaller government but the opposite has occurred.

(Of course the Tea Party’s emergence shows part of the country’s demand for small government, and their victory in 2010 says a lot as well. The report also states, “in October 2008, shortly before the presidential election the public was evenly divided on this issue: 42% smaller government, 43% bigger government” pg. 8, chart included)

Two ways to measure government size is expenditure and employment. According to OMB, since 1990, federal government expenditures has increased from  $1.8T to $5.T; as a percentage of GDP, spending has only increased by 3%. And regardless of the GOP candidates words, the federal government workforce has remained constant (table 17.1) since the 1960s and is even smaller now than under Reagan. There is often a vast gulf between what citizens think about the government does and what is true (1). Likewise, there is a vast gulf between what politicians say about the government and what is true.

Conservative politicians also attribute in the increase by perpetuating  “the government is too big”  belief causing it to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

We as citizens must decided what should and shouldn’t the federal government be involved in. A much stronger state government would be nice but that will require a greater focus on elected officials at the state and local level.

(Dallas South News is a great site for local news I must add)

The government is blamed for a lot of things that are out of its control and constitutional responsibility. Large events, often catching the federal government off guard, (9/11; Hurricane Katrina; BP Oil Spill; 2008 financial crisis, though predicted by Austrian economists) happen often and the citizenry, in return, demands for government action and responsibility; the government, caught in a storm, quickly responds with government action (creation of Homeland Security;  FEMA; investigation on Transocean, BP, and Halliburton; TARP) and responsibility.

I find it quite ironic that the ones who charge the government with corruption (I am referring to the Left; the Right usually charges the government with inefficiency) are the first ones demanding government intervention, larger federal government.

This charge is plausible. Both sides have consistently started wars, overspent and taxed, for the most part, retained the monetary and foreign policy and enlarged the entitlement system; these charges are my strong opinions of course.

Fortunately, none of the elected officials forced their way into office. What we see is what we voted for. The citizenry continues to be fooled by politicians who pledge loyalty to their constituents and nation.

Joseph Maistre said (2) “every nation has the government it deserves.” In a democracy, I think this is correct.

Overview of the demand for education

People’s needs mold government.

FDR pushed for the right to education in his Second Bill of Rights (1944) and in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (written, in 1948. by 1st Lady Eleanor Roosevelt) education was declared a human right, approved by the United Nations. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were no longer adequate rights, FDR believed, and the people deserved a second bill of rights, hence the speech’s title. Below is an excerpt of the landmark speech:

As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

‘Necessitous men are not free men’

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a good education.

Other rights FDR listed were a house, medical care, a job, and other services.

It’s hard to forget LBJ’s War on Poverty (1965). “Federal aid went to the creation of many programs to improve education for poor students at all levels,” the Department of Education (DOE) website explains. Under Jimmy Carter, the Department of Education was finally established in 1980.

Is there a solution?

Education is not unique; the same can apply for other areas of public life.

The effects of government intervention, especially student loans and grants, can be further analyzed by any beginner student of economics (like myself!). Under this “loose credit” policy, colleges raise their tuition (inflation) as a response to guaranteed federal subsidies thus effectively lowering the dollar’s purchasing power.

Perhaps one day the complex of government involvement–whether it be involvement or not–will be solved but until then we must ask ourselves, “What is the role of the federal government?” I think I have a document that is a pretty good starting point.

(1) Kettl, Donald A. The Politics of the Adminstrative Process, 5th edition. p. 66;  70-71

(2): Alexis de Tocqueville has been credited with saying “In a democracy, the people get the government they deserve.” There is debate over who said what and when.

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§ One Response to The Demand For A Larger Federal Government

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