The news that many of us would prefer vermin to a member of Congress at our dinner table should give us pause to consider what the real problem is with Washington. Politicians like to trot out reducing government waste, fraud, and abuse when they don’t want to cut spending, but the problem is not reigning in Federal Government waste. The problem is that our big government is waste.
Big government as an end in itself is a waste of money.
Did the Founding Fathers intend our government to be an end in itself? Looking at 2012’s tens of billions in improper payments, the largest public money wasters are big government entitlements and social insurance: Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, Supplemental Security Income, the Earned Income Credit, the National School Lunch Program, and other costs of a big government propping up its citizens. Do we need all this to run the country?
How much big government do we need?
More important, how little government can we get away with? Government is an expense. It creates nothing. That does not mean we have no use for government. It just means that we have a lot less use for it than we think we do.
There are some things we cannot do without. We need a military. As detestable as the idea is, we need some sort of a taxing body to raise money to pay for our defense and a handful of government workers. Other federal responsibilities have become liabilities. At one time our government was good at orchestrating massive projects like interstate highways and railways. That useful purpose has turned into calls to set up a massive infrastructure bank that would, no doubt, turn into a slush fund for unions eager to get their hands on federal projects subject to Davis-Bacon wage restrictions (see: Unions, Government, and Pensions Are Better Protest Targets). That is the problem with big government. It grows until what we are paying for becomes a detriment.
The Federal Government waste to stamp out is big government.
There is a lot more to Federal Government waste than the billions in public money lost to improper payments and fraud. Time, effort, and money are wasted by government officials, employees, and agencies we have convinced ourselves are essential. Consider wasteful big government expenses like paying for too many Cabinet members, agency heads, and their empires.
Other than resigning, what has Labor Secretary Hilda Solis done for us? Did she put people back to work? Have our public schools improved because Arne Duncan insists teachers should make huge salaries and unions should be part of public education (see: How Democrats Are Stealing Education From Your Children)? Can we believe anything Janet Napolitano says about border security or controlling illegal immigration, and if we did, would we agree with anything we hear? Is Eric Holder’s pursuit of states that fall out of line something that advances the nation? The president’s Cabinet is topped by Joe Biden. Can anyone reading this recall a single thing he has done to make our lives better in exchange for his salary?
We need a Secretary of Defense. Much as it pains us we probably need a Vice President, just in case. A Secretary of State is important. We can probably make use of a Secretary of the Treasury, if we can find a good one. Otherwise, taxpayers should think about culling the herd. Did the head of the Small Business Administration save small businesses during the recession? Did the Secretary of Energy save us from spending on Solyndra? Did federal regulators prevent the Madoff scandal?
Agencies too big to be useful are more government waste.
Our bloated, agenda-laden Department of Education? Get rid of it. Give education back to state and local governments. Taxpayers are being taxed three times for education, shelling out for public schools at the state, local, and federal levels. We already pay too much for our public schools to have the federal government insist that illegals have a place in the classroom and unions belong at the decision making table.
Department of Justice? Defending lawsuits against states for protecting themselves against bad White House policy decisions is not something taxpayers should pay for. Arizona residents paid with their state taxes to implement SB 1070 and then paid with their federal taxes for the Justice Department to sue their state for passing the law. Then they paid again to defend the suit. Can you think of a better example of big government waste than that?
Department of Labor? With millions of long-term unemployed Americans looking for work, did we need Hilda Solis spending her time on the public dime stumping for illegals (see: Why No Effort to Identify and Report Illegal Workers?) and using unemployment as an excuse to promote the president’s threats of job-killing tax increases? Keep a few number crunchers and labor law lawyers. Get rid of the rest.
And the awards for the two largest offenders:
Should we give computers, monkeys, or 8-year olds a try, or dump our federal legislative body altogether? Perhaps we should have an assembly of governors and mayors. Many state and local governments are as broke as Washington, but some are doing well. At least that gives us a shred of hope that the country can do better, something we will never get from Congress.
A figurehead is useful for state dinners and public appearances. Given Barack Obama’s tendency to indulge himself without consulting Congress we might want to follow the lead of the British and have future presidents focus on being seen instead of being heard. Like Capitol Hill lawmakers, the only time we know the president is not doing more damage is when his lips are closed and the signing pen is safely out of reach.