A case against big government


On Monday, The Daily Targum published a column about the arguments for big government. I'd like the readers to hear both sides of the issue.

The author of Monday's "Big Government Serves its Purpose" seemed to be under the impression that big government is synonymous with any government. He asked many rhetorical questions addressing who will secure the people's rights if not big government. He contended that the marketplaces are essentially unsafe without Big Brother looking over them. He also played the race card, perhaps in hopes of pulling at your heartstrings, in arguing that individuals cannot fight for their own personal rights.

Unfortunately for the author, he wasn't really reasoning for a big, coddling government — he was merely arguing against anarchy. Yes, of course we need the government to protect our liberties, property and safety, and to regulate the marketplace. But what we don't need is a government that works for itself under the guise of caring about its poor, sick and helpless citizens.

One of the most arrogant actions President Barack Obama has made is raising the federal income tax for citizens who gross over $250,000 annually. That tiny fraction of Americans was already responsible for the majority of government tax revenue, but Congress decided that the rich should shoulder more of the tax burden. Even under former President George W. Bush's administration, the top 10 percent of earners paid for 68 percent of the total taxes, while the bottom half of earners only contributed a measly 3 percent of taxes. It can be argued that the rich population can afford to pay a greater proportion of their income to the government — but is it fair? Let me remind readers that our founding fathers explicitly chose to deny government the option of taxing citizens' income. It all changed, though, in 1913, when Congress passed the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution, making it legal for the federal government to levy a graduated income tax on its constituents.

Under the ultra-liberal Obama in 2010, our government is still redistributing income; in fact, it has probably taken big government to a whole new level. Obama raised taxes, employed the largest administration in our country's history, spent more in his first year than any past president and insists on passing a health care overhaul bill when less than half of the country's population supports it. I could go on and on about the shortcomings of our severely inexperienced president — such as failing to meet conservatives halfway and being completely indecisive about troop increases in Afghanistan — but that goes beyond the scope of this column. What I want to focus on is a logical, fact-based case against big government.

Anyone who has ever taken an economics course knows about the benefits and downfalls of government in the marketplace — which is where an oversized government will inevitably end up. In its most limited form, government can play a helpful role in the economy by pooling investment and risk to provide public goods that everyone can use. There are certain goods and services that the government can supply most efficiently for the country as a whole — namely national defense, infrastructure, education and enforcement of property ownership. Ideally, that is all government should involve itself in; anything else Washington chooses to control is inherently doomed to be inefficient and wasteful. Some of these programs are Medicaid, Social Security and Welfare (and, strangely enough, they are all attempts at redistributing income).

Most people are caring and want to help others in need, and I encourage private philanthropy. However, I must object to any government measure that takes taxpayers' hard-earned income and awards it to low-income citizens purely because they don't make the same amount of money. As I mentioned, government is inefficient, so most of those tax dollars will be lost in the red tape and politicians' wallets. Oh, and did I mention the fact that donations are supposed to come through voluntary, heartfelt private gifts and not a Robin Hood system? The government has no place using tax money for nonessential programs.

To be fair, our current government is not nearly as domineering and omniscient as George Orwell predicted, but a self-serving, big government tends to feed itself. Key characteristics of an overgrown government are a budget deficit and debt accumulation. With this in mind, it might be alarming to note that this country has run a deficit every year — with the exception of four — since 1970. Congress, which is responsible for approving annual budgets, has seen our country amass a $12 trillion debt, a number so staggering we have no hope of paying it off even within the next half century (especially considering Obama has clearly made no attempt to choke the debt). It is infuriating that our representatives have so selflessly decided that it is in our best interest to dig an enormous grave of debt. It has never been appropriate or reasonable to spend money that one doesn't have. When individuals accumulate debt, they are held accountable. The government should be held to the same standard. The fiscal irresponsibility that has become commonplace in politics is unacceptable and frankly embarrassing. A balance sheet is one of the simplest financial tools to read and use, yet Congress cannot figure it out.

We do, however, have a chance to fix Congress's mistakes, and that is by voting every single congressman out of office. We need new blood. The old regime is stubborn in its ways and has no designs to slow its spending. Similarly, though he might have the best intentions, Obama has done almost nothing to help his country. Under his administration, the government has grown along with the national debt. Fortunately for the people of this country, every Carter is succeeded by a Reagan.

James Winters is a School of Engineering sophomore majoring in biomedical engineering.


James Winters

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