Just as the sun rises in the East, certain immutable facts about our government are these; No one spends other peoples’ money as wisely or as carefully as they spend their own money, and abundance leads to profligacy, they can get by with less if pushed.
I have always subscribed to the Roman Empire model of good governance; a strong military to keep the Visigoths at the border, maintain the roads and aqueducts, and occasionally throw in a religious festival where free bread is passed out at the Coliseum. The rest is left up to the local communities who understand their own problems better than a central authority. A minimalist government requires only minimalist taxation. Along with smaller government, an important factor is a strong work ethic embraced by the masses (You don’t work, you don’t eat), the freedom to plot your own course in life, and the understanding that with great freedom comes great responsibility (balancing risk/reward, and accepting either) and you have what I consider a pretty tolerable society.
But sadly, I think I’m in the minority. People want more and greater services, more social programs, more help, and essentially more free lunches. And for many such as the almost 50% of those that don’t pay the taxes that fund these programs, there is a disconnect as to where this money comes from;
In a well-functioning democracy, the people articulate their desires and grievances, and their elected officials shape these sentiments into sustainable policies. With this division of labor between citizens and representatives, democracy can be both responsive and responsible.
Like the citizens of many other democracies, Americans have recently signaled that they are tired of austerity and eager for more government action. Last April a Pew Research poll showed that for the first time in eight years, Americans favored a larger government offering more services over a smaller government providing fewer services. In the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll last month, 58% of Americans—the highest share ever recorded—agreed that “government should do more to solve problems and help meet the needs of people,” compared to only 38% who thought that “government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals.” Americans favoring a more active government included majorities of all age groups, races, ethnicities and education levels. (Those favoring less-active government included 63% of Republicans, 65% of Trump voters, and 51% of white men without a college education.)
Although few will admit it, many Trump supporters found his big government dream appealing. Trump campaigned on building up the military, funding massive infrastructure projects, and leaving the biggest tax revenue crushers as is with no change; Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security. And he talked about a tax cut, always popular with conservatives, although these same conservatives abhor the national debt, square that circle.
Another aspect of this “gimme stuff” mentality is the national push to forgive student debt. Despite the US government being the largest holder of student debt and that this student debt dwarfs all credit card debt held by US consumers, there is a move afoot to negate these contracts, binding or otherwise.
While folks want more spending on social services, scientific research, space exploration, environmental studies, and job training, they care less about accumulating deficits. Spend now/pay later (with somebody else’s money)- the new mantra of the day.
We are currently reaching debt limits not seen since WW2. Despite those big spenders who say debt is a good thing, we are beyond the conditions which prompted Hamilton to embrace debt , “Because if the government saw that there was a debt and it needed repaid, it would motivate the government to work hard, and collect taxes from the people to pay it off. It would also boost other country’s trusting of the new nation”. Those debt lovers also point to Great Britain, a nation in debt for the last three hundred years, but this is hardly apples to apples.
They also forget the consequences of carrying such debt;
Lower national savings and income
Higher interest payments, leading to large tax hikes and spending cuts
Decreased ability to respond to problems
Greater risk of a fiscal crisis
You can bet that when Uncle Sam is looking under seat cushions for nickels, and shaking the taxpayer down for spare change, it’s your freedoms which will certainly suffer; the freedom to enjoy the fruits of your own labor.