The Mythologies of Government

Let’s consider three themes that have gotten lost in the clamor over the election results.

Yes, the election is over and the big government guys won.
 
The question that continues to be asked is why?
 
Do Americans really want higher taxes? Do we really want to burden our children with debt? Do we really want to promise government as a cradle to grave solution for our economic and professional woes? Are we incapable of grasping that to the extent we surrender our own incomes to the government, we are also forfeiting a piece of our liberty and freedom?
 
Those of you who doubt the truth of Romney’s comments about the Democratic victory being based on the distribution of government resources to voting blocs, simply visit two websites: Obama.net or USA.gov. These web sites, built to cater to Democratic constituencies, are brazenly clear about the agenda of the administration and some of its core constituencies. They are all about getting government services and freebies.
 
To acknowledge this is not to agree with Romney for saying it, which was not politically astute. Nor is it to concede that this approach to politics is the way to go. What it does do, however, is clarify the challenge before those of us who continue to believe in the possibilities of a free society not chained to a big government paradigm.
 
In the same way, to appreciate that certain ethnic constituencies are currently pro-Democrat does not mean that we can’t do a better job of pitching our view of government and society. One of the problems with the current debate raging in the Republican ranks is how silly and polarized it becomes – that we must choose between extremes — adopting liberal policies or losing the country forever. There is a third way – and that is to articulate with passion and skill the costs of a government run society.
 
Let’s consider three themes that have gotten lost in the clamor over the election results.
 
·         Local elections were not nearly as left as the national election. Republicans fared better in local and state elections than they did nationally in the presidential and Senate races. For every state or locality that endorsed a tax increase, others opposed them (even in liberal strongholds like Memphis).
·         Rush Limbaugh recently pointed out how every time a tax on internet commerce is proposed, the internet world, which is expanding massively on a daily basis, declares war. Why? Why do so many Americans oppose government intervention into cyber space, but welcome it in so many other aspects of our lives? At the very least, this opposition to cyber space regulation and taxation is instructive and suggests that a lot of people still understand what is at risk when government is so pervasively involved in our lives. What are the lessons – and do we accuse cyber space businesses and shoppers with being mean-spirited because they oppose that those taxes?
·         We have allowed ourselves and the free enterprise system to be put on the defensive. Meanwhile, government run projects and programs are treated as if they are the model of efficiency and effectiveness. How soon we have forgotten the failures of the Great Society and also the implications of the Grace Commission. For goodness sakes, even Robert Kuttner, a socialist, has documented the failures of Obama’s government led efforts to address the problems they have claimed to target. (Of course, his solution is to double down and use more government better.)
 
In a recent study (Government Designed for New Times), the business consulting group, McKinsey, observed that simply by revisiting spending policies and improving process issues, governments could cut budgets by 5 to 10 percent without sacrificing services or raising taxes.
 
Conversations with those who deal with government agencies on a routine basis leave no doubt about the opportunities to improve government performance. Not one of them speaks positively about the efficiency of government or the services it delivers. Instead we hear about state and federal employees who barely work 50 percent of the time, yet get better retirements that private sector employees. Or we hear that the private sector could perform the same services provided by government for 50 percent of the cost.
 
Reengineering the federal government is an idea that I suspect many Americans would gladly embrace and who knows, Maybe Mitt Romney is the man to do it. Is the President listening?
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