This business about shrinking the size of government is both quantitative and qualitative. If one is talking about the quantitative argument then you can you choose a number of metrics such as government employees and government spending. If you choose the qualitative measure you get more into the role of government including regulations, economic interventions, social behavior, and criminal activity. No matter which you choose there are stark inconsistencies in the Republican party and its Tea Party ultra conservative wing. That is not to say that the Democrats are without their faults, but then again they’re not the party banging the drum about diminishing the size and the role of government.
The GOP believes that all government spending is excessive and ripe for cutting unless it is in support of defense or national security apparatus. Here is the breakdown of the 2012 federal budget ($Billion):
· Total Spending: $3,795
o Defense: $902
o Social Security: $820
o Medicare: $485
o Welfare, Unemployment: $452
o Medicaid: $324
o Interest: $224
o Education: $153
o Transportation: $103
o Protection, Police, Prisons: $62
o General government: $34
o Other spending: $236 (NASA, FDIC,TARP, Fish & Game, R&D, Disaster relief, etc.)
· Estimated Revenue: $2,468
· Resulting Deficit: $1,327
The items in red represent mandatory spending, in other words the government is required to pay social security and Medicare disbursements, and the interest on the outstanding debt. If you deduct these items, that leaves $2,266Billion of government spending available for cutting of which 40% is for Defense. By insisting that defense coffers be spared of any cuts, in fact Romney pledges to INCREASE military spending, the Republicans are proposing the silliest plan of all time. Even if you cut all other spending by 10%, you will only reduce overall spending by $136B.
When you throw in the massive tax cuts that Romney and Ryan are proposing, you can see why so many nonpartisan think tanks are saying these plans are not reasonable and represent pure folly. To completely ignore revenue in this equation is foolish and reckless. But once you sign on with Grover Norquist, like Ryan did, you have made the deal with the devil.
In other words, we cannot cut our way to fiscal neutrality. Even Reagan and H.W. Bush realized that. Sadly the guys who seem to need more math instruction are the same guys seeking to gut education.
But I save the bulk of my criticism for the qualitative aspect of this small government fallacy. While I reject the conservative movement of Barry Goldwater, I do respect his consistency on all things conservative. He staunchly opposed labor unions and government intervention while wholeheartedly supporting states’ rights. His zeal for limited government was only watched by his hatred of communism. Nonetheless, he would have opposed DOMA, DADT, and the takeover of the Republican Party by the religious right while steadfastly supporting a woman’s right to choose. Goldwater was so offended by the religious right he once said “Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.”
Why do I single out Goldwater to make a point on conservatism? Because his opposition viewpoints on the role of religion in government exemplifies the abomination that has become the Republican Party. The intrusion into the bedroom , the exam room, and the classroom are all in violent opposition to the concept of conservatism and small government. This abomination assumes the worst notion of big government: big brother. A government that takes liberty away from women to purchase contraception, a government that takes away a woman’s right to an abortion, a government that denies couples the right to marry, a government that denies ready, willing, and capable citizens from serving their nation due to their sexual orientation, a government that in the name of one god denies the religious liberties of those that believe something else, and a government that forgets public school is to be free from religious instruction and taxpayer money is not to be used to fund private schools.
With regards to government regulations and interventions, an ideological debate is welcome. At the end of the day, do you trust the market to regulate itself or can/should the government do it? A fair argument. What astounds me is the conservative ideals from many saying that the answer to deregulation inducing economic implosion, is to further deregulate. It’s like the codependent telling the addict, you OD’d but didn’t die, so let’s try more heroin next time. It is completely illogical. With respect to government intervention, especially concerning GM, I believe it was a necessity. An organized bankruptcy would not have worked because it would have been impossible for GM to procure necessary materials with the cloud of potentially sticking its creditors on the horizon. Don’t believe me? Ask anyone at a firm like Kodak; once the blood is in the water the sharks will turn up. I oppose government takeovers, but I acknowledge as a matter of last resort, they are necessary especially under the circumstances we found ourselves in 2008 and 2009.
I enjoy debating true small government conservatives who believe that government spending needs to be cut in the long term, revenues increased and government the hell out of our lives. However, I have no time for self-described small government believers who believe same sex marriage needs to be banned by the government. That hypocrisy is abominable.