Is Bri­tish-style big gov­ern­ment in our fu­ture?

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Cal Thomas

Bri­tain’s New La­bor, de­spite crit­i­cism from Prime Min­is­ter Gor­don Brown of a gov­ern­ment that has grown too fast and costs too much, has been qui­etly plan­ning a vast ex­pan­sion of gov­ern­ment. The Sun­day Tele­graph re­cently re­ported the Eco­nomic Re­search Coun­cil, Bri­tain’s old­est think tank, has con­cluded, if the growth is al­lowed to hap­pen, a huge su­per­state will be cre­ated that will cost over­bur­dened tax­pay­ers 170 bil­lion pounds, equiv­a­lent to about $340 bil­lion U.S. That is more than five­fold Bri­tain’s de­fense bud­get.

If any of the lead­ing Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates win the 2008 elec­tion, a sim­i­lar su­per­state will come to Amer­ica. The threat of such a gov­ern­ment tax­ing at higher lev­els and reg­u­lat­ing vir­tu­ally ev­ery area of our lives in ex­change for a prom­ise to “take care” of us of­fers an op­por­tu­nity for Repub­li­cans that will soon pass if not quickly seized.

It is fine for Repub­li­cans to speak of tax cuts, which in­dis­putably have con­trib­uted to record eco­nomic growth. But a par­al­lel is­sue for Repub­li­cans in 2008 should be a fo­cus on out-of-con­trol spend­ing. Amer­ica’s pu­ri­tan­i­cal “waste not, want not” her­itage might yet stir enough of us to op­pose need­less spend­ing if tied to an ap­peal for more per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity and ac­count­abil­ity for one’s life. Elim­i­nat­ing, or at least re­duc­ing, waste­ful spend­ing weak­ens the Democrats’ ar­gu­ment for tax in­creases.

Even un­der Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity rule, in­clud­ing a Repub­li­can pres­i­dent, gov­ern­ment has con­tin­ued to grow. Only a break with that hereti­cal Re­pub­li­can­ism will re­store cred­i­bil­ity with vot­ers who in­creas­ingly view the two par­ties as in­dis­tin­guish­able.

Where to start? The al­ways ex­cel­lent chron­i­cler of such things, Cit­i­zens Against Gov­ern­ment Waste (www.cagw.org), of­fers a road map in its pub­li­ca­tion, “Prime Cuts 2007.” CAGW es­ti­mates that if all of its 750 rec­om­men­da­tions for cut­ting un­nec­es­sary and waste­ful spend­ing were en­acted, tax­pay­ers would save $280 bil­lion next year and $2 tril­lion over five years. Ac­cord­ing to the CAGW, we send $1.1 tril­lion of our money an­nu­ally to Wash­ing­ton (and more to state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments). De­mand­ing re­spon­si­ble spend­ing from elected of­fi­cials might prove to be a win­ning is­sue.

Some pro­grams have long out­lived any use­ful­ness they might have once demon­strated. Among them, the CAGW main­tains, are the White House’s Na­tional Youth An­tidrug Me­dia Cam­paign (elim­i­nat­ing it would save $512 mil­lion over five years), sugar sub­si­dies (sav­ing $800 mil­lion over five years), and the Ad­vanced Tech­nol­ogy Pro­gram (sav­ing $721 mil­lion over five years).

The His­toric Whal­ing and Trad­ing Part­ners pro­gram, ($45 mil­lion in sav­ings over five years), and the De­nali Com­mis­sion ($35 mil­lion over five years) are two other pro­grams re­cently added to the CAGW’s list.

The His­toric Whal­ing and Trad­ing Part­ners pro­gram, says the CAGW, is charged with de­vel­op­ing “cul­tur­ally based ed­u­ca­tional ac­tiv­i­ties, in­tern­ships, ap­pren­tice pro­grams, and ex­changes to as­sist Alaska Na­tives, na­tive Hawai­ians, chil­dren and fam­i­lies liv­ing in Mas­sachusetts, and cer­tain In­dian tribes in Mis­sis­sippi. Projects in 2006 in­clude the New Bedford Whal­ing Mu­seum and the Pe­abody Es­sex Mu­seum, both in Mas­sachusetts, the Alaska Na­tive Her­itage Cen­ter, and the Bishop Mu­seum in Hawaii.” This is pork and in any case ought not to be a fed­eral re­spon­si­bil­ity.

The De­nali Com­mis­sion, es­tab­lished in 1998 dur­ing Repub­li­can con­trol of Congress, is, ac­cord­ing to the CAGW, “a fed­eral part­ner­ship with Alaska to pro­vide util­i­ties, in­fra­struc­ture, and eco­nomic sup­port to poor rural com­mu­ni­ties.” What­ever per­ceived ben­e­fits that might have come from this pro­gram, the com­mis­sion du­pli­cates sev­eral pro­grams in the La­bor De­part­ment, “in­clud­ing those re­lated to the Work­force In­vest­ment Act, from which Alaskans re­ceived $10.6 mil­lion in 2006.” Who fa­vors pay­ing twice for the same pro­gram?

Democrats love it when Repub­li­cans fo­cus only on cut­ting taxes, be­cause it cedes to them the “fair­ness is­sue.” Fo­cus­ing on waste, fraud and abuse, which ad­mit­tedly some Repub­li­cans have been guilty of in the re­cent past, could re­store the GOP to its pre­vi­ous po­si­tion as guardian of our pock­ets and purses against the over­reach­ing hand and in­sa­tiable ap­petite of gov­ern­ment. To para­phrase Ron­ald Rea­gan, gov­ern­ment never thinks it spends too lit­tle or taxes too much.

Bri­tish La­bor is way ahead of Amer­ica in its plans to grow their gov­ern­ment. Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates had bet­ter start speak­ing to Amer­ica about the dan­gers in fol­low­ing their lead.

Cal Thomas is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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