Wednesday, September 23, 2009

1. The Monster; its Origins and Effects

I am quite concerned about the state of our Union. We have drifted so far away from what our founding fathers intended that I fear we may not be able to right the ship. What I mean is that our federal government has grown into a monster that is almost completely beyond the control of the people it purports to represent.

I believe it all began with Lincoln’s use of federal force to conquer the states that seceded in 1860. Each state had decided to join the Union because it believed that its interests would be better served as part of the Union rather than standing alone. Many states believed that, just as they had entered the Union of their own volition, they were free to leave it if circumstances warranted. While Lincoln made his decision because he truly believed otherwise, he nevertheless set a precedent for what has become a very powerful central government. Not the least of his precedents was the income tax, which was later declared unconstitutional before the 16th amendment made it permanent.

Franklin Roosevelt made things worse with the sweeping changes of his “New Deal.” His programs drastically expanded government to the point where it reached into the private lives of citizens for the first time. It’s hard to figure the worst thing FDR did, but establishing mandatory tax withholding has to rank among them. (Before 1943, citizens had to actually pay the government every year—so they knew exactly how much they were paying. By withholding tax from workers’ paychecks, the taxpayer never sees it—and so many people have no idea how much they actually pay in taxes. With taxes “out of sight and out of mind,” most people are less inclined to pay attention to how their tax dollars are being spent.

Lyndon Johnson added to the federal behemoth with his “Great Society,” which included the creation of Medicare and Medicaid—the two biggest entitlement programs (both of which are insolvent, just like Social Security). Now Barack Obama’s administration is attempting to further increase the size and scope of government at an almost unprecedented pace. In just eight months, he has passed massive “bailout” spending, and the other proposals he is pushing (cap-and-trade legislation and health care “reform”) will not only cost trillions of additional dollars, but they are also radical changes to our society that will move us closer and closer to becoming a European-style socialist democracy. (Contrary to popular belief, we are not a democracy; we are a constitutional republic. But I digress.)

Further complicating our situation is the fact that our Congress is filled with career politicians. Some of these people have served for decades. (Of the 535 senators and representatives, 82 have served at least 20 years; 24 have served 30 years; and three have been there for 40 years or more. 131 have served at least two terms.) Many of these people are corrupt, and nearly all of them are drunk on the power and prestige that come with their position. They have no incentive to reduce the reach of government (or even to stop its growth), because that would jeopardize their positions of power. Their priorities are severely misplaced, and they have lost touch with the people they are supposed to serve. Our founding fathers never intended for government service to be a career; it was supposed to be a sacrifice. How far we have fallen from their ideal!

The combined effects of this expansion of government have been deleterious to the American people. Unfortunately, many citizens are unaware of the erosion of their liberty because the process has been incremental. Like a beaver (or perhaps termites?), our ever-growing government gnaws away at the tree of liberty.

The recent acceleration of government growth (since the latter part of the George W. Bush administration) has seen the federal government take over significant portions of the American economy. From the automotive industry to the mortgage business, the Obama administration is sticking its fingers into as many pies as it can. The health care industry is next on their list. If it continues to grow, this government interference in the market will inevitably lead to the collapse of our economy. The result will be either a socialist state (where the government owns the means of production outright) or a fascist state (where the means of production are privately owned, but controlled by the government).

What would be the result of such an economic collapse? Would the United States be in danger of being conquered by a foreign power? Or would we just have to suffer through a prolonged depression?


Peggy Rossmanith said...

Term limits, Daniel. Term limits. The minute politics became a profession, politicians stopped being public servants.

-D. said...

I agree 100%, and I'm getting to that. Stay tuned...