Paying for Government Services

One objection I have to the modern progressive movement is that it believes that the government should be responsible for “social justice,” which means evening out the playing field.  I do not believe this goal is possible, mainly because the problems that progressives wish to ameliorate are too massive; self-interest on the part of Congress, the president, and the bureaucracy is too pervasive; and government programs are intrinsically inefficient. And because the programs proposed by the Left are inevitably based on utopian dreams that are grounded more on emotion and idealism than on any practicable program.

Paying for Government Services

Worse, any step toward government-run programs is a step toward socialism. Socialism is one of those ideas that sound good until they’re implemented. But it inevitably leads to authoritarianism and always fails sooner or later. Socialism is anti-democratic to its core, and anybody who says otherwise is either a liar or naïve.

I am especially dismayed by the large number of the young who thoughtlessly buy into socialist ideas with no sense of history or the way things actually work. I am dismayed because I was exactly like them when I was their age. I am still more dismayed because there have been fifty years of experience with these ideas to the detriment of the nation.

Not to say that the Right is any better. Too often, they favor big tax cuts without the foggiest notion of how the cuts are going to be paid for. If you take money away from an agency, you must replace it somehow, or get rid of the programs it manages. And don’t think tax cuts will automatically lead to greater prosperity. That happened under Kennedy and Reagan, but the dynamics are different now. It was the Bush tax cuts that set us on the path to ever-increasing deficits.

The pathetic thing about the young lions of socialism is that they are going to have to pay for the expanded government they espouse. Don’t believe for a minute that soaking the rich is going to do it. If you put the top 1 percent into a 100 percent tax bracket, there wouldn’t be enough money to pay for it all. Invariably, it’s the middle class that has to pay the bill, and the middle class is shrinking.

As a matter of fact, we can’t pay for the government we have. Through a series of accounting tricks, we are led to believe that social security is solvent and will remain so until 2034 or so. The fact is that all entitlements are broke today, right now. The rapidly increasing annual deficits in social security, in Medicare, in Social Security Disability, in the Affordable Care Act, and in Medicaid are not supported by any assets, and to the degree they are paid for, that money comes out of ordinary taxes and fees.

ACA, the newest of the entitlement programs, is burdened by various types of subsidies, plus the Medicaid expansion, which is almost entirely paid for by the federal government. These represent ever larger costs and will be impossible to support over the long term without onerous new taxes. And the Left wants more—free college, an even more expensive national health insurance program, universal preschool, and the like, every one of which will be prohibitively expensive.

There is never any talk of installing business principles to any of it. Business principles work, and there is no reason they can’t be applied to the government. There is never a cost-benefit analysis as to whether a program or a regulation is more helpful than harmful. There is no independent review of the potential costs of a new or expanded program, only the data the Bureau of Budget receives from the program’s advocates. There is never a post-implementation review to determine how effective the program is, or whether or not the cost and revenue projections are reasonably accurate. We just have to take their word for it. And there is no way to fire underperforming managers or staff.

In the end, businesses must be responsive to shareholders, to boards of directors, and, increasingly, government oversight. The federal government is responsive to no one.

 

 

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