Is Choking Off Government Spending A Good Thing Or Not? The Left & Right Disagree

Calpundit — unintentionally I think — touched on one of the primary differences between the left and the right while commenting on the Milton Friedman interview I posted yesterday. Here’s the essence of what he said…

John Hawkins: So would you favor for example a 3/5th’s majority to raise taxes like they suggested in the “Contract with America”?

Milton Friedman: Yes. But the example that comes to mind really is the Colorado Tax And Expenditure Limitation Amendment that requires the spending to increase no more from year to year than population and inflation.

That got me to thinking: what if the United States had enacted a spending limitation like this in the year I was born? What would the U.S. budget look like today? Let’s see:

Federal budget in 1958: $82 billion

Inflation multiplier since 1958: 5.19x

Population increase since 1958: 1.68x

Let’s multiply this out: 82 * 5.19 * 1.68 = $715 billion. This compares to an actual budget for 2003 of about $2,140 billion.

…So: no Social Security, no Medicare, no EPA, no NASA, no foreign aid, no National Institutes of Health, no national parks, no disaster assistance, no housing aid, no FDA, no OSHA, no unemployment insurance, no nothing. Just a big military, some courts, a penal system, and a few other minor symbols of government.”

Now of course, we could argue about whether we’d be better off if the government really were that small and the taxpayers had kept their money for all of those years. Some people, Libertarians & Fiscal Conservatives (like myself), would probably say “yes,” people on the left would say “no,” and other people would probably come down somewhere inbetween with a, “well we could get rid of A, B, & C but I’d rather keep X, Y, & Z”. That would be a nice theoretical discussion.

However, Friedman didn’t suggest proposing this in 1958 in the interview — he suggested doing it NOW. That’s why it makes little sense to compare implementing a Tax And Expenditure Limitation Amendment in 1958 to implementing one today, UNLESS you believe there are still all sorts of “wonderful new programs” the government has yet to come up with.

Which leads us to a key point, perhaps the essential dividing line between conservatives & liberals (although not between Republicans and Democrats to our nation’s great misfortune)…

Conservatives already believe government is far too big and would like to at least slow it’s growth or better yet reduce its size. On the other hand, liberals believe government is far too small and want to see it expand.

Personally, I don’t believe there are any more “great”, new, domestic programs out there that the government needs to start up. So while I am unhappy with a lot of things we currently spend money on from agricultural subsidies, to airlines bailouts, to many social spending programs, I am even more opposed to any NEW programs that aren’t related to the most basic functions our Founding Fathers intended that government perform (security, building roads, foreign policy, etc). As it is, I don’t see anywhere in our society that the government’s tentacles haven’t already creeped too far into. In short, there is rarely a time that I look at something that’s happening and go, “You know, getting government involved in that portion of our lives is going make things better”. Whereas Calpundit & other people on left are looking for government to create the “next Social Security” or the “next OSHA” one day and therefore get very nervous when you start talking about actually limiting the growth of government.

That is a fundamental difference between the left and the right in our country…

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