Big Government and Short Attention Spans: A Recipe for Disaster

LQQkin4LUV: yo. spot me a $20?
CaliGIRL420z: k
LQQkin4LUV: imma give u $15 back. k?
CaliGIRL420z: hellz no!

Would you take that offer?

Whether or not that chat conversation is real, the federal government does that to us every day. They take our tax dollars, and then return far less to us in the form of funding and services. So why do we let them get away with it? Do we think the government is the only entity that can provide those goods and services, or do we simply not care enough to pay attention? The answer of course is both, and that chat exchange is the most in-depth many of us get when discussing economics.

Most of the issues we deal with as Americans, especially those that involve government, turn into a political war of opposing ideologies. However, some issues have nothing to do with Party affiliation and big government is one of them. Many people hear “big government” and they think a far-right, Glenn Beck, Tea Party lecture is about to follow, but that is not the case here. This is an honest explanation of what “big government” means, and how the more power the federal government has, the less we do. Unfortunately, learning that often means reading and investigating beyond the headlines – something we’re becoming increasingly unfamiliar with as a society.

First, it is important to understand that almost all arguments against big government are directed at the size of the federal government, and not necessarily the states.  Sure, state government can become bloated and inefficient, but that’s the problem of those living in that state – and not necessarily yours or mine. In addition, state government is far more in touch with their own people than the federal government will ever be; an important fact to remember when discussing policies pertaining to taxes, education, energy, health care, and so on. Putting the debate over the actual spending aside for a moment, the real question is whether an issue falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government or the individual states.

If you had a friend that only earns $25,000 per year, but somehow managed to spend $41,250 this year while racking up $175,000 in credit card bills – would you think an intervention is in order? What if your friend already owed his grandparents $1,137,500?

That’s exactly what our federal government did.

Our federal government brought in $2 trillion in revenue, spent $3.3 trillion, and racked up $14 trillion in debt; all while being committed to spending $91 trillion in Social Security and Medicare down the road.

Is there anyone left in America that thinks we’re not in a crisis? We’re going to be paying for this mismanagement for decades, if not more! And if you speak up you are somehow considered to be a racist, anti-poor, right-wing extremist.

Education is one of the biggest areas in which the American people are victims of big government. Yes, I said it – victims. We enjoy a public education system in this country, albeit one that competes very poorly with those in other countries despite much higher funding. In exchange for that public education we pay taxes, a portion of which is directed to various school districts all over our nation in the form of federal funding.

The U.S. Department of Education accounts for roughly 9% of all K-12 education spending in the nation. To put this in perspective, state and local governments in California estimate $112 billion in education spending for 2011, while the federal government will spend roughly $78 billion across all 50 states. So if federal education spending is just a drop in the bucket, why do we need the Department of Education to pay 4,603 employees a total of $1.8 billion to administer it? Couldn’t we just keep that money, along with the $77.8 billion in federal education dollars, in our states? Do we really need the middleman skimming off the top?

This is why many conservatives favor a voucher system in which the government gives the money to parents, to spend at the school of their choice. That, of course, is a threat to the public school system, who until recently have had no reason to concern themselves with efficiency. Education “advocates” continue to demand more money, even though the U.S. already spends more than most countries that rank above us in test scores. They scream bloody murder about education “cuts,” even though they are merely reductions in planned increases, and not actual cuts at all.

The same can be said about health care. In passing health care reform in March 2010, Congress decided NOT to allow the purchase of health insurance across state lines. So if you live in Texas, you can only purchase policies available in Texas, from companies licensed in Texas. If you live in New York you’d be very upset to hear that the average insurance policy there is $200/month higher than the average policy in Iowa. Too bad you can’t “shop around.” So if we don’t have a national health insurance system, why do we need the federal government to regulate it?

If all personal health insurance purchasing is wholly contained within a state, why can’t the state handle these issues? Massachusetts did when they passed universal health care. And while their system is costing far more than expected, and currently bankrupting the state, people can choose to move elsewhere if they don’t like it. That’s the beauty of living in a country with 50 individual state governments. Unfortunately President Obama and the Democrats don’t agree, and they’d prefer to saddle the entire nation with one giant, expensive, unmanageable health care system, from which there is no escape. Their almost $2 trillion health care bill requires us to send more money to Washington, so a fraction of it can be returned to us in less efficient ways than if we just kept it here to begin with.

We would realize this, if we were paying attention! But we’re clearly not.

There are no easy solutions to this problem, especially since many Americans simply don’t care enough to take an active role in keeping our government in check. We’ve also created a society so dependent on the government that no one wants to risk losing their hand-outs. The Tea Party movement addressed some of these issues, but was then demonized as a group of whack jobs by those who felt threatened by their demands for smaller government. But is trying to save our children and grandchildren from mountains of debt an extremist view? Is giving up local control, to a national system that treats us like numbers, a partisan issue?

Our inattentiveness has led to a runaway federal government that reaches so deep into our lives that we don’t dare confront it.

We may each have different views on how to address these issues, but that’s no excuse for remaining complacent. Whatever the solution is, it’s time for all Americans to get involved and demand better from our government and our elected officials.

If we don’t, we may have no country left to fix.


5 thoughts on “Big Government and Short Attention Spans: A Recipe for Disaster

  1. “We would realize this, if we were paying attention! But we’re clearly not.” And the reason for that is we have dumbed down our population to point that attention span of an ant seems like an eon. We’ve been living on sound-bytes and talking points as though we had no leisure time to waste reading.
    Yes, I know I wrote “We”. But only us can fix us.
    A peculiar take on the reading of the Constitution last week:
    They have no excuse now for not knowing what’s in it, as they had to read he whole thing.
    Should anyone think that I’m one of those crothety old guys sputtering off on a following generation; don’t jump at me. Ruefully, I, your grandparents and parents were all hare when it (the dumbing down) was happening, and we went hoarse shouting, “Look out!”.

  2. “There are no easy solutions to this problem, especially since many Americans simply don’t care enough to take an active role in keeping our government in check. We’ve also created a society so dependent on the government that no one wants to risk losing their hand-outs. ”

    Bingo!!! I asked a group of people at my parish if they personally would be willing to endure tax hikes or budget cuts that personally impact their daily lives.

    Not one single person was willing to do that.

    One person said, “We don’t need to spend as much as we do on Defense.”

    Another person said, “Half of the people in this nation don’t pay income taxes. Make them pay first.”

    It was a thorough round of screw this institution or shaft that person. But, leave me alone. Let me have mine. I want my cut from the government.

    I am fearful this is how things are. Screw the other guy. Let me have mine. Very few people in this nation are willing to sacrifice.

    With that said we have three choices:

    We can do nothing and drive smack into national banruptcy.
    We can inflict our own painful cuts and get out of this mess.
    We can let some outside force like the IMF or China do it for us.

    Greece and Ireland have had outside change imposed. Portugal and Spain are very close to that edge too.

    The people of Greece and Ireland had a chance to fix their own troubles and time ran out. Now they have to live with the outside pain inflicted.

    Do we really want to go down that road?

  3. “I am fearful this is how things are. Screw the other guy. Let me have mine.”

    This defines conservatism to a tee. I’m glad you inadvertently pointed that out.

  4. “This defines conservatism to a tee. I’m glad you inadvertently pointed that out.”


    “The difference is, a conservative is willing to work for it.”


    In my parish there are plenty of liberals and conservatives with this screw the other guy attitude.

    I worked hard for all I have. I’d like to keep more of it for myself. But with $15 trillion in debt I know that is not likely. I am willing to sacrifice. But the loser deadbeat milking SSI, Sec. 8 and getting fat off of food stamps won’t give a lick of what he has. Perhaps he can do something revolutionay like get a job?

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