I understood where he was coming from; I don’t enjoy writing the tax check to Uncle Sam, either. But, I also don’t enjoy paying the cable bill; it’s just a reality I must accept for getting the service.
I wonder, though, how much money I could keep in my paycheck if there wasn’t so much being allocated for…well…defense spending.
I knew that my visitor was implying government spending on everything else, but nearly $700,000,000,000 a year must seem at least a little excessive to anyone. We talked for a while and what he didn’t like were things like the Department of Education, the FDA, the EPA, welfare programs, and Social Security.
When I do a little math, though, I see that aside from Social Security, I don’t lose that much from my check to welfare, and except for the proportion that is spent on defense, I think I’m taxed moderately to run a nation with the services and benefits we have.
I asked my visitor, “Will you be making personal contributions to national defense to make up for less taxes?”
I agreed. But, the question arises: What is the infrastructure of the United States?
The preamble to the Constitution states:
“We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity….”
From this we can probably agree on the services necessary to protect Americans and our economic health: National defense, highways, waterways, railways, sewers, utilities, and communication networks.
But what else is contained within promoting “the general welfare” and the “domestic tranquility” of the people?
Most people (including me) don’t hesitate to include schools and hospitals, but where do we draw the line? The quality of education provided in those schools? And what about the entire health system? What is a hospital without the best care possible?
What is “domestic tranquility”? Does that include social services?
And where is the line drawn for “common defense”? Who defines the parameters of necessary defense before it becomes aggressive offense?
My office visitor left right after I said, “Government is what we’ve made it. It is naïve to suggest that all we have to do is cut spending and cut programs and government will automatically get smaller.”
He left, but I silently continued my reasoning.
Government has grown as our country has grown. We, the People, have demanded that our government protect our interests in areas that far exceed our Framer’s original understanding of Common Defense and General Welfare.
I would’ve asked my visitor: “When a passenger jet crashes, would you be satisfied with an explanation from Boeing that it will never happen again, or do you prefer that there is an FAA that investigates the crash without bias and has the authority to instigate changes to prevent that mistake from happening again?”
“When toxic waste is poured into a river and the neighboring town gets sick, would it be enough for the townspeople to ask that the company please refrain from doing that? Or do we need the aggregate voice of all the people (government) to demand new practices?
“When the lunchmeat is bad at school, what will protect our children from the choice a provider made to hold better margins?
The answer? Government of, by, and for the People.
The Libertarian ideal, the one that includes Thomas Jefferson’s philosophy of agrarian government, can no longer exist because the conflicting interests and demands of 315 million people (and counting) ensures that simplicity will never again be the operating system of America.
There is a reason government has not shrunk even when we’ve had Republican presidents with a Republican Congress. It’s like changing a tire on a moving car; most of the programs and services contained within government were created by our own demands upon that system. In many cases, spending (welfare spending, as well) has increased under the watch of the party that stands most firmly against it.
We can, and should, talk about defining government responsibilities. We can, and should, talk about controlling spending, and we should talk about redundancies and unnecessary government programs. But, those directives do not necessarily create smaller government or keep “government out of our paychecks.” They can, however, aim our conversations toward creating “better” government.
Government is the foundation of representation and the realization of our Founder’s vision. It is improved by cooperating within the system designed by our Constitution, by researching the issues, by participating with our votes, and even with our protests.
Let’s leave talking about size to fishermen and insecure guys in bars.