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Things are getting better, slowly, because of government

Westminster Town Hall Forum/Pablo Jones
Jacob Hacker speaking during Thursday's Westminster Town Hall Forum.

From Yale political scientist Jacob Hacker’s talk on Thursday at the Westminster Town Hall Forum:

“The headline that you’ll never see is: ‘Things are getting better, slowly, because of government.’ But it’s actually the truth.  And if we use government more, things will get better faster.”

If I didn’t write another word, you’d have Hacker’s main argument. His new book, with co-author Paul Pierson, is titled: “American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper.” That’s also a pretty good summary of his talk.

The United States is neither a capitalist nor a socialist country. The economy is best described as “mixed.” Private businesses, which can make their owners and executive far wealthier than they would ever get under an all-socialist system, coexist with elements of government intervention, like taxes, regulation, and safety net programs that are designed, in part, to take from the rich and help the poor but also to promote the general welfare and general prosperity.

There’s nothing new there, although the inclusion of the word “amnesia” in Hacker’s title is surely meant to suggest that some people have lost sight of this basic element of our system, and have declared a “war on government,” based on the premise, or at least the rhetoric suggesting that government activity should not be viewed as a balance against the potential excesses of capitalism but as an inherent subtraction from freedom and liberty.

If that sounds like an overstatement of just how anti-government the “liberty wing” of the Republican Party has become, I would remind you of what Grover Norquist, one of the leading anti-government campaigners of recent decades, told National Public Radio in 2001: “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”

The “amnesia” part of Hacker’s title seems meant to suggest that those who crusade against government have cleansed their memories of anything positive that has been accomplished in U.S. history as a result — at least; in part — of government activity.

Hacker says that America’s rise during the 20th century to become the richest and, in many respects, most advanced nation in the world was undoubtedly due in large part to entrepreneurial activity in the private sector that made possible a massive expansion of prosperity that benefitted America in general, but that entrepreneurial activity was undoubtedly built on foundations built by a strong government.

At the beginning of the 20th century, three in 10 children in urban centers died before their first birthday and the life expectancy of ordinary Americans was about 45 years. Now it’s approaching 80 years. Have government programs to clean up air and water contributed to that? Have massive government investments through government agencies like the National Institutes of Health led to improvements in health care practices and in the creation of new vaccines? Do the estimated eight million lives that have been saved by regulation of the tobacco industry owe something to government action?

Hacker thinks so and he argued in his talk on Thursday that leaders of American business once understood the positive role that government could play and helped these programs along. He did a riff Thursday comparing the father and son team of George and Mitt Romney to illustrate the point.

George Romney started out poor and never graduated from college but worked his way up to the presidency of American Motors (then one of the Big Three U.S. auto companies). According to Hacker, he once turned down a raise that the AMC board wanted to give him because he didn’t think he should get one when the company’s workers weren’t getting one. George Romney became governor of Michigan and used his national influence against the drift of the Republican Party to the right, criticizing and opposing the 1964 nomination of Barry Goldwater because of Goldwater’s far right agenda.

Hacker read aloud a quote from George Romney, in that context, that seems awfully prescient about the coming age of partisan polarization, thus:

“Dogmatic ideological parties tend to splinter the political and social fabric of a nation, lead to governmental crises and deadlocks, and stymie the compromises so often necessary to preserve freedom and achieve progress.”

Mitt Romney didn’t start out poor (thanks to his father’s success) and was able, as a consultant (in, fundamentally, the financial sector that doesn’t manufacture anything like father Romney’s company did) to become a lot richer than his dad ever did.

It would be inaccurate to suggest that Mitt Romney led the right-wing faction of his party. But he did – notably in his infamous off-the-record disparaging remark about the bottom 47 percent of Americans – identify himself with the “makers and takers” analysis that is connected to the current thinking of the current plutocracy.

Of course there’s a long-running American argument about how much government is too much. But, Hacker said, “the new idea that government is parasitic on a very small creative elite and the rest of society is mooching off of that elite is new to me and troubling.”

Fed into the political process, Hacker said, this argument and the tactics of the right to not only criticize government but to prevent it from functioning have created what Hacker called “a doom loop of dysfunction,” where right-wingers prevent the government from doing things that most of the country considers useful and “most Americans see that and are pretty unhappy about government so they turn around and reward the party that is attacking government — that is the Republican Party.”

Uttering words and phrases that are sure to horrify the drown-the-government-in-a-bathtub crowd, Hacker summed up, thus:

“The thing that I think we tend to forget, amid the barrage of negativity about government, is that we actually have used government effectively in the past, and because we’re not using it effectively enough now there’s a lot of money on the table. There are a lot of places where fairly straightforward things like investing in our infrastructure or the research and development that would yield a big return.”

Hacker’s Westminster talk (MinnPost was among the sponsors) was broadcast on MPR if you want to hear the whole thing.

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Comments (100)

  1. Submitted by Jim Million on 04/15/2016 - 03:37 pm.

    Eric

    The “Big Three” were GM, Ford, Chrysler.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/15/2016 - 05:22 pm.

      True, but

      we forget how varied the American car market once was.
      AMC included the ‘little Nash Rambler’ as well as Jeep and Renault.
      Of course now the big three are Toyota, Honda and Hyundai/Kia.
      Now, of course, all the car companies are internationals (except maybe Tesla), and GM and Chrysler would not be in business if it were not for government bailouts. Ford managed without one, but I believe that the U.S. is a smaller part of it’s market than the other two.

      • Submitted by Jim Million on 04/15/2016 - 07:35 pm.

        Sure…

        What AMC really had to sell before takeover by Chrysler, was Jeep, not so much Eagle or anything else. Remember the “Chrysler/Jeep-Eagle” dealership signs? Were it not for the Jeep marque, Fiat may not have bought Chrysler. Jeep was the profit-maker for years, and likely the focus of Fiat’s purchase, as well.

        AMC sold Renault because Renault had owned controlling interest (47%) in AMC for some years. It was that 47% Renault share Chrysler purchased. As noted, Fiat now owns Chrysler.

        I believe you are right about Ford, always big overseas, especially Britain. Ford did consider going to Washington for “bailout” money, but decided it did not need/want it. They did accept a “loan,” I believe, and promptly re-paid it. [This, I recall, came out afterwards. Probably just a little corporate insurance.]

        I’ve sometimes wondered how much investment return Ford made on that loan it never really needed.

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 04/16/2016 - 07:48 am.

      More George Romney

      http://www.nytimes.com/1995/07/27/obituaries/george-romney-dies-at-88-a-leading-gop-figure.html

      For those who wish a better overview of his life, here is his NYT obit.

      Please note that he left American Motors in 1962 for political life as “liberal” Republican, according to NYT.

  2. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/15/2016 - 09:47 pm.

    More or less

    “And if we use government more, things will get better faster.” That is a storing statement because from it one can conclude that real socialism, when government does everything, will make things perfect which is absurd so Mr. Hacker is wrong and cannot be taken seriously. Governments, like most other things in life, have both positive and negative influence. The problem is what the right amount of government is and reasonable people can disagree on that (Republicans think it is too much now and Democrats think it is too little). Considering that the right amount also varies with time, the problem is almost unsolvable. By the way, using George Romney as an example of a Republican supporter of government doesn’t give us anything: since government has grown since then, it is most likely that in his time government size was OK but now it is way over the reasonable amount.

  3. Submitted by John Appelen on 04/15/2016 - 11:40 pm.

    Same Old

    Continually the Left makes the case that the Right is trying shrink the government to somewhere we have not been before. Often comparing the GOP’s dream government to some third world country. All the while neglecting to mention that the total government spend as a % of GDP has been growing pretty much non-stop since 1900.

    http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/spending_chart_1900_2020USp_17s2li011lcn_F0xF0sF0lF0f_Federal_State_and_Local_Spending_In_20th_Century

    Now I am not recommending that we go back to 8% of GDP, however I think 33+% is probably excessive. How about instead of giving government more of our hard earned dollars, we demand that they become more effective and efficient with what they already receive.

    I also, thought this was amusing. “But, Hacker said, “the new idea that government is parasitic on a very small creative elite and the rest of society is mooching off of that elite is new to me and troubling.”” Because of course Ayn Rand was writing about that concept in 1943.

    • Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 04/16/2016 - 10:04 am.

      The ONLY Part of the Government that Needs to Shrink

      is the Defense Department.

      If you examine the record carefully, you’ll see that, “the Left” as you so dismissively call us are the ones who actually SHRINK government,…

      or at least slow its growth,…

      whereas our recent “conservative” presidents, Reagan, H.W., and W have massively grown the size of government,…

      primarily through military adventurism,…

      military procurement,…

      and the privatization of former functions of the military with contracts handed out to their well-connected friends,…

      an approach which always ends up costing far MORE than having the troops continue those functions,…

      has resulted in a lot of very shoddy work including plumbing and electrical work so bad that it has led to the death of soldiers taking showers,…

      and the disappearance of whole shipping pallets of $100 bills.

      I’m convinced that government spending is such a massive bugaboo for our “conservative” friends,…

      as a compensation for their inability to manage their own personal spending and finances (and that of their party).

      Rather than discovering what it is about how they were raised that makes it impossible for them to think logically and mathematically about their own incomes, borrowing and spending,…

      they’re projecting their discomfort outward and making themselves feel better by strongly criticizing GOVERNMENT spending.

      Yet somehow they remain blind to the fact that the Defense Department operates just like they operate their own financial lives.

      In fact, the Defense Budget is so bloated and so devoid of tracking and controls that the Pentagon can’t even manage to successfully audit it’s own spending.

      They actually DON’T KNOW where all OUR money is going.

      If you want to “shrink” government, THAT’S the only place to start.

      Once you’re finished cleaning up THAT swamp, you’ll find that precious little ELSE needs to be done.

      • Submitted by Chip Laingen on 04/16/2016 - 03:44 pm.

        Defense Spending

        Actual defense spending has been near historic lows, compared to GDP, and is certainly not the primary growth area for government spending, even under the previous president. The “cost” of the wars in the Middle East has been falsely reported by the likes of the New York Times and others, who have factored in spending that would otherwise have occurred anyway. And in fact the DoD budget is only about 17% of the Federal budget, where it’s been hovering for about a generation. That’s a pretty small figure, compared to the massive percentage of the budget that goes to entitlement spending – previously about 68% of the budget, now 72% thanks to Obamacare. And that doesn’t even take into account the servicing of the Federal debt (nearly doubled under this president) and massive increases in food stamps and other spending that has happened under this president, taking what’s left of the “discretionary” spending budget. That’s pretty sad – that defense spending should even be considered ‘discretionary – when providing for the common defense should be “Job One” for the Federal government. Under Obama, the only department that has taken real cuts has been the defense department – all the rest have taken cuts to the rates of increase to continue funding programs that the Federal government shouldn’t be in in the first place.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/16/2016 - 04:12 pm.

        Reality

        Facts and Data.

        Please note that National Defense is near an all time low. While the world is very insecure and unstable.
        http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/defense_spending

        While Health and Human Services Spending is near an all time high.
        http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/welfare_spending

        By the way, I call Liberals the Left and the Conservatives the Right. I think that is typical jargon. No offense intended.

        • Submitted by Pat Berg on 04/16/2016 - 07:48 pm.

          Christopher Chantrill

          That website is a construct by someone named Christopher Chantrill who is a conservative who has described Sarah Palin as a “kingmaker”.

          Got any other “go to” sources to go to? Like maybe something ending in .gov?

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/17/2016 - 07:33 am.

            Sources

            Whatever Christopher’s political affiliation, the site’s numbers line up with:
            https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/FYONGDA188S

            They are used by plenty of other news organizations, and unfortunately the government seems to be fine with keeping this information challenging to pull together into one easy to understand site. Maybe they are concerned we would revolt if we actually understood how much our very complex government is spending… 🙂 No,.. I think it is because the entity is so confusing, spread out and full of little “kingdowns” that they really don’t know.

            What do you think is inaccurate about them? Please share a better source.

      • Submitted by Bill Willy on 04/17/2016 - 06:11 pm.

        It used to be called the War Department

        “Obama: US spends more on military than next 8 nations combined”

        Politifact verdict: “Obama’s statement is accurate by one measure, while another measure says the United States spends more than the next seven countries combined.”

        http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/jan/13/barack-obama/obama-us-spends-more-military-next-8-nations-combi/

        Here’s the level of yearly U.S. military spending and that of the next highest eight countries (in billions — feel free to not count South Korea):

        1) United States: $597.5

        2) China: $145.8

        3) Saudi Arabia: $81.8

        4) United Kingdom: $56.2

        5) Russia: $51.6

        6) India: $47.9

        7) Japan: $41.4

        8) Germany: $36.6

        9) South Korea: $33.4

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures

        (And, of course, it should be noted that the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were/are “accounted for” on a separate, “continuing resolution” track that is separate from run-of-the mill, everyday “defense” spending and, essentially, is/has been put on the National Debt Credit Card.)

        And speaking of “false reports” of the cost of those wars, how ’bout this one from Harvard (that bastion of lying disseminaters of false information)?

        “Cost to US of Iraq and Afghan wars could hit $6 trillion

        “The cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could reach as high as $6 trillion dollars – or $75,000 for every household in America

        “The fresh calculation – which includes the cost of spiraling veterans’ care bills and the future interest on war loans – paints a grim picture of how America’s future at home and abroad has been mortgaged to the two conflicts entered into by George W Bush in 2001 and 2003.

        ” ‘There will be no peace dividend,’ is the stark conclusion from the 22-page report from the Kennedy School of Government, ‘and the legacy of Iraq and Afghanistan wars will be costs that persist for decades.’ ”

        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/9961877/Cost-to-US-of-Iraq-and-Afghan-wars-could-hit-6-trillion.html

        And what did we (and the rest of the world) get for just the Iraq part of that “investment in America’s future”?

        “Half-Million Iraqis Died in the War, New Study Says

        http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/10/131015-iraq-war-deaths-survey-2013/

        But hey. Stuff happens, right? So let’s forget that part of things (and the thousands of young Americans who were killed and disabled “defending our freedom”) and get back to the “false reports” of the dollar amounts involved . . . Let’s say the idiot Lefties at Harvard were off by half and it’s really only cost $3 trillion so far. What if we hadn’t invaded Iraq (to find and destroy those weapons of mass destruction) and spent it on something else? What could we have gotten for our money when it comes to a different kind of “investment in America’s future”?

        “Estimated [U.S. infrastructure] Investment Needed by 2020: $3.6Trillion”

        http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/executive-summary/

        So said the American Society of Civil Engineers in their 2013 “Infrastructure Report Card” report. That seems to say we could have just about paid for a nationwide infrastructure overhaul for the cost of those wars (at half the Harvard price) but what do those (probably biased and dishonest) Civil Engineers know?

        Obviously, Republicans in the U.S. Congress (and Minnesota House) know a lot more about it than they do, which an American citizen has to assume is true because they have absolutely, positively refused to propose or authorize any infrastructure spending at all since when? Anyone? Anyone? Anyone know the last time Republicans signed off on any (and how much) infrastructure spending? I’m drawing a blank.

        Related to all that ungodly “entitlement spending” and the evils of O’bamacare, as any good conservative will tell you, everyone in America would be much better off leaving such things to the Private Sector because they’re soooo good at making things like life and death health care and average people’s retirement reality so affordable and rosy (which is why American health care ranks most expensive and least effective in the industrialized world).

        Don’t you wish your bank had decided to invest your entire working life’s social security contribution in mortgage-backed securities in 2007 and 2008?

        Wouldn’t it be great if senior citizens were freed from Government Tyranny and allowed to pay $5,000 to $6,000 per month in (high deductible) “health insurance premiums” and $20,000 to $30,000 per emergency room visit?

        Funny, but just like with infrastructure appropriations I can’t remember the last time I heard of the insurance industry demanding the government get rid of Medicare and let THEM provide coverage to America’s seniors. Can’t say for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out there’s nothing the “insurance sector” of our marvelous Free Market Health Care Management System wants less than having to try to work the health care costs of THAT “demographic segment of society” into their broader “plans and premium structure.”

        If non-entitlement people think their private health insurer’s premiums are high now I’m sure they’d be be amazed at what would happen if those Medicare “freeloaders” were suddenly transported “off the government dole” and into the private insurance market. Not sure what percentage of GDP that would represent, but it probably wouldn’t be a nickel lower than the numbers mentioned above . . . Just because you eliminate a “government service” doesn’t mean you eliminate the cost of the need that service provides for (which seems to be a cornerstone of “conservative thinking” — eliminate the government program and the expense vanishes . . . Poof).

        The costs don’t go away. They just get “shifted” to a different set of providers, billers, collectors, and, of course, payees. And in the case of (just) the “entitlement” called “Medicare,” guess who that new payee would be? That’s right . . . YOU and your family. If the 54 million Medicare beneficiaries were moved to private insurance tomorrow, and insurance companies did accurate “cost analysis” on those people, it’s likely ALL private health insurance premiums would double or triple overnight.

        But hey . . . Your taxes would probably go down by $2,000, maybe $3,000 per year and that would cover at least, what? A month or two of premiums? Good deal . . . Be sure to vote for it.

        And about those “massive increases in food stamps” (for Wal Mart employees and others folks working two and three Job Creator part time jobs who can’t quite afford to feed their families) . . . Not sure where that tidbit came from, but according to this 2014 headline and story (and last I heard),

        “President Obama signs $8.7 billion food stamp cut into law”

        http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/obama-signs-food-stamp-cut

        (Must have been some massive but unreported increase since then that almost everyone seems to have missed.)

        Anyway . . . Well said, Greg. Anyone who believes it’s vital we spend $600 million per year on “defense” (and hundreds of billions more on “off the books military actions”) has obviously swallowed the endless Boogie Man Fear Campaign hook line and sinker, has a distinct “lack of faith” (according to the Christian teachings so many of those people claim to believe in deeply) and no idea what the word “conservative” actually means.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/17/2016 - 10:08 pm.

          Pragmatic

          With great wealth comes great responsibility, I think carrying the biggest stick and being a force for global stabilization has served us well. The US consumers have saved trillions buying from over seas companies.

          What did we Americans get from those wars? We got peace in a America. Because almost every terrorist went to those countries to fight against the evil American military instead of thinking of ways to come here. And our all volunteer army has been eliminating them.

          As for massive deaths in Iraq, blame the Shiites, Sunnis and other insurgents. The USA gave them a chance at peace, they chose otherwise.

          Infrastructure spending is part of the bonding bills they signed off on. And if I remember correctly, the GOP wants to use the surplus on roads and the DFL wants to spend it elsewhere.

          As for low paying jobs, as I always say. Deport the illegal workers and have American consumers buy high domestic content products and services from companies that treat their workers well. Unfortunately most won’t do that because Walmart and Hyundai have such good quality for such low prices…

          FYI, I am not against SS or Medicare. I think they should either raise the tax rate or cut the benefits so they are aligned. (ie stop the path towards default)

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 04/16/2016 - 12:22 pm.

      Nice tag, sir

      I know a Web Log is a “Blog.”
      I’m pretty sure an “Assumption Log” would be a “SLog.”
      What might be the acronym for “Blather Log”?

      Thanks for challenging these guys. As you note, the inertia of reality seems to be going against rationality.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/16/2016 - 04:16 pm.

        Facts and Data

        I keep hoping that at some point more people will take time to look at and analyze the facts and data before propagating what their favorite party says to them. Be they on the left or the Right. 🙂

        • Submitted by Bill Willy on 04/17/2016 - 03:29 pm.

          So let’s just focus on one (supposed) fact then

          “Facts and data” is such a huge, amorphous phrase that anyone trying to “check them” prior to saying anything can be at least a little pointless sometimes.

          So with that in mind, and viewing it in the context of, “How might this (alleged but singular) fact be the result of the Liberal influence on governing?” what do you think of this “reflection of economic reality” as presented by none other than the non-liberal people at Forbes?

          “The top 1% now owns half the world’s wealth”

          http://fortune.com/2015/10/14/1-percent-global-wealth-credit-suisse/

          The more radical hop heads out there (like Bernie Sanders and his more ardent supporters who think he makes some pretty good points) put it more starkly than that when they point to the (alleged) facts and data that claim to show that just one-tenth of 1% of Americans (3.3 million out of 330 million I believe that is) own nearly 90% of all American wealth (real estate, factories, utilities, railroads, airlines, pipelines, businesses, general assets, etc.), but no need to “muddy the waters” here by adding in that (potential) fact and its related “data set.”

          http://www.politifact.com/virginia/statements/2015/sep/21/bernie-s/bernie-sanders-says-top-01-us-have-almost-much-wea/

          I guess the question would be, if the “facts and data” actually did (or do) prove that 1% of the population (of Earth) now owns 50% of the entire world’s wealth, what would you think of that? Good idea? Something we, as one of the societies of the world, should continue to support, strive to enhance, encourage our government to stay out of the way of, etc.?

          Or would you, perchance, be inclined to think it might be something we, as a society, should consider maybe trying to do something about and, part two if you do, how would you suggest we go about doing that without involving our government or any of its policies? Let “the market” take care of it, lower taxes to let people keep more of their own money, etc.?

          (And please remember to support your reply with solid-as-possible facts and data that show why it is whatever you recommend would work to help instead of exacerbate the alleged “wealth disparity” situation . . . Thanks)

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/17/2016 - 10:47 pm.

            Choices

            I know this gets repetitive but if American workers want to become wealthier, they need to:
            – choose to support American workers with their expenditures
            – support strong union businesses with their expenditures
            – support deporting every illegal worker in the USA, if they truly want to increase low end wages.
            – strive to learn, get married, stay married, have small families, save, invest.

            I think the following can be counted as facts:
            http://genxfinance.com/the-top-5-ways-to-become-a-millionaire/

            As for the rich having the wealth…
            – most of them follow the simple steps in the link.
            – investors win wherever the American consumers choose to buy,,, I own funds that own Walmart and many Foreign firms. The question is How do we get young people to stop buying new phones and start buying mutual funds?

  4. Submitted by Chip Laingen on 04/16/2016 - 10:40 am.

    Way Off Base

    It’s not surprising that a Yale professor would make these claims. The evidence supports that the Great Recession was the result of big government, not Wall Street; specifically the Left-inspired notion that everyone should own a home, and hence the mortgage bubble. The same is now threatened by the student loan crisis (also a Left-inspired notion that everyone should have a college degree – and that we should all pay for it, causing those costs to skyrocket); and the next bubble that will surely burst after that, if it already hasn’t, is the disastrous Obamacare takeover of the private health care system, not to mention the equally dangerous idea of a $15 minimum wage – both of the latter threaten to crush small business, innovation and entrepreneurship. The common denominator in all of this is government intrusion into the private marketplace, based on good intentions perhaps, but nevertheless based on ultimately damaging desires – fairness and equality. Neither are American values (that was the French Revolution). Liberty and freedom are American values (that was the American Revolution), and we are slowly abandoning them, thanks to a growing government that seeks equal outcomes rather than equal opportunity. Government has a role, in maintaining balance and combating the extreme tendencies that unfettered capitalism naturally evokes out of human nature. But an unchecked and growing government, and now one that has demonstrated appalling corruption as a result, is far worse than unchecked capitalism.

  5. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 04/16/2016 - 10:50 am.

    Many of us who read this summary Eric makes of the speech, and the book, prefer to focus on the main idea: that we have horrendous governmental dysfunction in the U.S. today because of the exaggerated anti-government rhetoric of the Tea Party and the GOP that its ideology has overtaken. That a constructive tension between Wild West capitalism with no controls, and strong government restraints on capitalist abuses of the common good, is what America has benefitted from in its growth over many decades.

    The main idea here, not George Romney or American Motors, is what upsets far-right GOPers and Libertarians, because it shows up their ignorance of how government in the U.S. has worked. Worked for us all. Anyone who knows American history well knows that this Yale scholar is right on that! (Check out the 150 years of huge government subsidies to private business, for example. Please.)

    • Submitted by Ray Schoch on 04/18/2016 - 08:51 am.

      Reason

      Thank you, Ms. Sullivan, but I fear the use of reason in this comment thread will have little effect. Some of the commenters combine linear thinking with ideological rigidity to a degree not normally seen outside the Soviet Union in the 1930s – an irony I fully appreciate.

  6. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 04/16/2016 - 11:03 am.

    Standing on the compromise diving line – not allowed

    The longer we put off taking care of a crumbling America the costlier it is going to get. What are the options? Let the country continue to deteriorate. Wait until we can afford to fix the broken, which never seems to materialize. Deny there is a problem until it affects the denier. Let the politicians swear loyalty to someone like Norquist, who has not been elected to anything. Speak the truth, then recant because it doesn’t agree with Limbaugh, who has not been elected to anything. Stop everything the government provides and see how long it is before people want action. Make promises during campaign speeches because it makes everyone feel good, but don’t deliver once elected because who cares. I think the real answer is to fix what needs to be fixed. Then keep after it when it needs repair again to keep the cost down.

    I suppose we could save a lot of money if we got rid of politicians who don’t earn their pay.

    America was at its best when we all worked together. We didn’t have an Us vs Them society then and we don’t need one now. We don’t need the art of the deal. What we need is the art of political compromise. Neither side can be allowed to feel like they are standing on the dividing line when the negotiations start.

    • Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 04/16/2016 - 05:03 pm.

      What “The Art of the Deal” Really Means

      The philosophy behind “The Art of the Deal” is completely selfish and self serving,…

      not how can we make a fair and equitable trade,…

      but how can I keep facets of this deal hidden,…

      buffalo you with false promises,…

      and in any other “hook or crook” way possible,…

      make sure that YOU get the short end of the stick,…

      I come out way ahead,…

      and there’s no way you can come back at me when you discover how much I ripped you off.

      In the current conservative perspective, you’ll find NOTHING of “we’re all in this together,”…

      and everything of “what’s in this for ME,”…

      and endless excuses made for those whose only goal is “making a killing,”…

      even when they actually kill people.

      For these folks, there is no “US” (in either meaning of those letters),…

      there is only “ME.”

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/16/2016 - 06:52 pm.

      Compromise

      For the last 55 years the politicians have been compromising and the spending has just gone up and up. Please remember that both the Democrats and the Republicans like to spend on things that their voters want. Personally I would prefer to have more of that money in my pocket so my family can spend it on what we want.

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/warrenmeyer/2011/07/14/its-a-spending-problem/#1f14a33962f0

      So can we really afford more compromise if it does not lead to be more effective and efficient government? Personally I am happy some folks are saying no to the past behaviors that led us to a $20,000,000,000,000 national debt and nearly a record spending rate. (% of GDP) See link above.

      By the way, the National Debt works out to about $62,500 / citizen.

      • Submitted by Bill Willy on 04/17/2016 - 07:46 pm.

        So this guy’s wrong . . . Right?

        “Bruce Bartlett began his career in Washington in 1976, first as a legislative assistant for Rep. Ron Paul. While working as a special assistant and chief economist on the staff of Rep. Jack Kemp, he helped to draft the Kemp-Roth tax bill of 1981, which sought to stimulate economic growth through tax rate reductions. The legislation served as the centerpiece of supply-side, or ‘trickle-down’ economics, whose proponents believed that tax breaks for the richest Americans would eventually cause their resulting wealth to ‘trickle down’ to the less fortunate.

        “The same year the legislation passed, Bartlett wrote ‘Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action,’ and became known in Washington as a central figure in the supply-side movement and the Reagan Revolution. He became a director of the bipartisan Joint Economic Committee, and later served as a Senior Policy Analyst in the Office of Policy Development in the Reagan White House. During the George H.W. Bush administration, Bartlett served as deputy assistant secretary for economic policy in the Treasury Department.”

        http://billmoyers.com/guest/bruce-bartlett/

        In the (Forbes) article linked below he gives a great perspective on how the approach to politics and government you seem to believe in so passionately and faithfully got started and what the results were. As you’ll see if you read it, everything you just described was, at the very least, helped along greatly (if not caused) by those very things (you’re glad some people are “saying no to,” but actually aren’t because . . . Because of what you’ll see if you read what Bruce Bartlett has to say before he says this):

        “Starve the beast was a theory that seemed plausible when it was first formulated. But more than 30 years later it must be pronounced a total failure. There is not one iota of empirical evidence that it works the way it was supposed to, and there is growing evidence that its impact has been perverse–raising spending and making deficits worse. In short, STB is a completely bankrupt notion that belongs in the museum of discredited ideas, along with things like alchemy.”

        http://www.forbes.com/2010/05/06/tax-cuts-republicans-starve-the-beast-columnists-bruce-bartlett.html

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/17/2016 - 10:22 pm.

          Yes

          I agree that “starve the beast” will never work if citizens and their politicians are determined to grow the beast for their own pet project, benefits, subsidy, votes, etc… Nothing surprising here.

          Remember this good quote of questionable origin.
          “When the people find that they can vote themselves money that will herald the end of the republic.” Benjamin Franklin

          • Submitted by Bill Willy on 04/18/2016 - 10:47 am.

            Nothing surprising

            If it didn’t surprise you it means you’ve known for some time that the “starve the beast strategy” (one of the cornerstones of contemporary conservative thinking, rhetoric and action that goes hand-in-hand with supply side, “trickle-down,” Reagan/Conservonomics) doesn’t and hasn’t worked (for whatever reasons) despite 30 years of policies and laws enacted to make it work. Policies and laws that haven’t made it work but HAVE made economic and day-to-day life worse for the vast majority of Americans while making economic and day-to-day life much better for roughly 10% of Americans.

            “Nothing surprising here.”

            Yet you keep saying (in so many ways) that we need to do more of it.

            It doesn’t work, but we should keep doing it.

            The car won’t start but we should just keep buying new batteries and turning the key until it does (because, eventually, some citizen or retired politician will finally grasp their responsibility to design and build an American-made battery that will start ANYthing!).

            We have vast repositories of detailed information (empirical facts and data) on things that have worked MUCH better for the majority of American’s over the past 100 years (and worked better for more people than any other approach in the history of the planet) but, according to you and a surprising number of other people, we should not do those things but keep doing the things that have been proven not to work (over the course of a 30-year “experiment”).

            Time and time again, throughout most of the 20th century, people called on a neighbor or someone with a tow truck to help them get their car started but we should forget about that kind of (“old world”) approach to things, just keep turning the key, have Menards deliver a steady supply of fresh batteries and charge whatever it costs to our Mastercard account, take taxis or Uber or the bus or walk to work and wherever else we need or want to go.

            It’s simple: Human Nature is the problem and “starve the beast” and the rest of “trickle-down economics” WILL work as soon as that changes. But until then its imperative that we keep doing the things that don’t work for the vast majority even though it’s not surprising when things go badly for that majority on account of it.

            Not sure, but I think that kind of thinking, rhetoric, advocacy and (voting) action may be an integral part of the “doom loop of dysfunction” Jacob Hacker was describing.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/18/2016 - 04:26 pm.

              Personally I think that Jacob and yourself are the ones advocating doing more of what has failed in the past. I mean it seems you are advocating more negotiation, compromise and expenditures. These of course being the things that have enabled the total government to be given control of 33+% of our GDP.

              What I am advocating is quite balanced. Stop increasing government spending until it is 1% lower than tax revenues. And use the 1% to start paying off the National Debt.

              I am indifferent to where they take the money from. (ie Defense, Human Services, Public Employee Compensation, Efficiency Gains, etc)

              Please note that after the taxes were raised on the wealthy a couple of years ago, and the economy recovered… Federal revenues are back where they have been for a long long time. It is just spending that is higher than typical.
              http://www.heritage.org/federalbudget/charts/2015/federal-government-spending-problem-680.jpg

              I never understand when the Left says we are not spending enough, when in reality we are spending more than ever before. How much is enough?

  7. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/16/2016 - 05:00 pm.

    Wrong foundation

    The entire idea that more government is better is based on the wrong belief that government always does the good things. But it was government that supported slavery, it was government that created monopolies, it was government that interned Japanese…. So what if more government will make things worse?

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/19/2016 - 10:02 am.

      Created? Or Tolerated?

      “But it was government that supported slavery . . .” Yes and no. Slavery was allowed (free market!) and protected, but ultimately abolished by government action. You can’t seriously believe that unregulated capitalism would have ended slavery by itself, do you?

      “[I]t was government that created monopolies . . .” Again, yes and no. In the past, monopolies were granted by government dictate, but in the era of industrial and post-industrial capitalism, government has alternated between tolerating and attempting to block monopolies. The government didn’t make Minneapolis a one newspaper town.

      “[I]t was government that interned Japanese….” Yes, and that was unquestionably wrong. Is it comparable to the crimes of the Pinochet regime?

      “So what if more government will make things worse?” There is no human endeavor that is perfect, or that is guaranteed to make things better. Note that it was government action that built much of the infrastructure in the US, promoted mass education, and that keeps the worst impulses of economic actors in check (in theory, anyway).

      • Submitted by Jim Million on 04/19/2016 - 07:09 pm.

        Unregulated Capitalism

        RB, I remember from high school history (and later) that a significant pressure against slavery (and for war) was indeed Northern capitalism losing economic wage power to the South. A fair amount was written after the Civil War about those non-humanitarian agendas. New England factory owners were quite concerned about low labor costs below the Ohio River. We do know this.

        It is also most interesting to me (from an early 20th Century tract) that importation of slaves to early 1700s Virginia very much caused the increase of slavery, simply because small tobacco farmers (majority of all growers then) could not pay field hands a fair wage and compete with those growers using African slaves. The irony certainly is that slavery allowed the small farmers to raise children, who then started families and moved a bit west, etc. etc. My Million family is absolutely in this story of How the West was Won, moving over the mountains into what is now Kentucky, then to Illinois, Missouri, (one to Saint Paul), and on to Seattle and other westward destinations.

        In terms of market advantage/disadvantage, those small growers realized they could buy a slave for about $150 or so as one-time capital expenditure. Always interesting conjecture on my part, has been the possible realities had those small farmers been left only to sell out to the large plantation owners, likely greatly increasing the importation of slaves while impoverishing all others. My own Kentucky progenitor owned 3 slaves on his farm where this little bit of Million, KY remains.

        It was what it was, but it could have been far worse, it seems.

        [Of lost note, it seems, is the fact that the Dutch mostly ran the slave trade.]

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/20/2016 - 09:21 am.

          Unrepentant Capitalism

          I’ve never heard much about northern industrialists opposing slavery on economic grounds. Slaves worked in agriculture, and there was no real push to change that in the antebellum south (experiments at having slaves work in large factories were unsuccessful). In fact, slave labor was the basis for a number of northern fortunes. Textile producers and shippers depended on southern cotton (over half of all export earnings in the US came from cotton), and northern bankers and insurance companies profited mightily from the slave trade (the Browns, of Brown University fame, made their fortune in the slave trade despite living in the first state to outlaw slavery). It’s no coincidence that New York City was a hotbed of Confederate sympathizers during the Civil War.

          Slavery was a very efficient system for producing labor-intensive cash crops, like tobacco and cotton. Economies of scale give the large producer an advantage in the market, so yes, the small producers. Slavery was definitely thriving immediately before the Civil War. Legislation was even introduced to revive the African slave trade.

          “[Of lost note, it seems, is the fact that the Dutch mostly ran the slave trade.]” I have cousins in Sweden who are very self-righteous about their claims that Sweden was never a colonial power, and never allowed slavery. Leaving aside the issue of whether colonizing Delaware constitutes being a “power,” there was a large fort in Dakar built by Swedish traders to protect their slave trading interests.

          • Submitted by Jim Million on 04/20/2016 - 07:07 pm.

            Oh, Yes

            The Swedes, Dutch, Germans and Danes had their little African empires. One must not forget the diamond trade, either.

            Northern industrialists were concerned about having to compete with lower wages in the mills, foundries and other competing industrial enterprises of the South. I could track down specifics, but really don’t feel its necessary. Let’s just have an understanding that Northern Industrialist were concerned about Southern advantages, not simply slave labor. The British affection for the South also was quite disturbing to New Englanders, given the still powerful British trading system.

            Anyway, Southern slavery was one issue of several…the one that became the galvanizing agent for Northern commitment to war…and still the nexus of current affairs.

            The PLANTERS OF COLONIAL VIRGINIA
            By THOMAS J. WERTENBAKER

            New York: RUSSELL & RUSSELL 1959

            COPYRIGHT 1922 BY PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS
            COPYRIGHT 1958, 1959 BY THOMAS J. WERTENBAKER
            LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOG CARD NUMBER 59-11228

            If you are interested in the early days of Virginia tobacco commerce and labor factors, here is my source previously mentioned:

            http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/32507?msg=welcome_stranger

  8. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/16/2016 - 05:01 pm.

    Questions

    Mr. Brandon, not all relations are linear but then statements like I cited should be qualified. This one was not.

    Mr. Kapphahn, if the left shrunk the government by reducing the Defense Department as you suggested, then can we say that 9/11 was the result of Clinton’s reducing defense part of the government?

    Ms. Sullivan, are you saying that government dysfunction is the result of the Tea Party and the GOP? So what causes government dysfunctions in such diverse places as Venezuela, China, Soviet Union, and Italy?

    Mr. Christensen, when in your mind did that Us vs. Them started?

    • Submitted by Tom Christensen on 04/16/2016 - 11:25 pm.

      President Reagan’s era was the beginning of income inequality

      Income inequality charts show America’s Us vs Them society started in 1981. The income inequality divide has gotten worse every year since.

      • Submitted by joe smith on 04/17/2016 - 07:52 am.

        That is because folks actually had JOBS under Reagan

        I entered the workforce in the 70’s under Nixon/Carter and believe me things changed for the better in 1980. The Obama and Carter economies look the same, major stagnation and small growth. The one difference is the media was more honest back then at calling it what it was. As Reagan said “govt is not the answer to your problems, govt is your problem” . Truer words were never spoken.

        • Submitted by Jim Million on 04/22/2016 - 09:33 am.

          Attribution of Cause

          Jobs recovered fairly quickly under Ronald Reagan for several reasons, significantly because the Volcker FRB got its new econometric models completed after the 1972/73 OPEC “economic [price] shock” sent us into what has been called “The Mini-Depression,” far worse in portent than our recent “Great Recession.” I have direct understanding of what turned the economy, from a primary source then working at the Fed.

          Since the ’80s, we’ve been adjusting models under several Fed Chairmen, and, we’ve had more volatility throughout domestic and foreign economies, now more closely linked than ever before 1970.

          I suppose one might find many books/articles on the success/failure of recent models; however, even the average world creature knows of significantly increased volatility.

          The 2007-08 Banking Crash seems to have been more a matter of industry secrecy than national economic forecast failure…certainly linked, however.

          Everyone must gain more information to belay some of “Everyman’s” pessimism. Given, that, there are valid reasons for some pessimism; therefore, coincidental reasons for doubt of political promises.

          In short, here, nobody should truly believe any of the World’s Central Banks have an effective grasp on all of this. Lot’s of stuff is still spinning somewhat like space junk around current models.

          Best Exhibit: Never in the history of anyplace on this globe has a Central Bank gone to negative interest rate basis. In the past year, five have done so, with the U.S. Fed watching closely.

          Last fall, our Fed raised the discount rate .25 to keep it off .00; because, I believe, that provides room for a future decrease without going negative, if realities dictate.

          That’s just my opinion with some educated insight. 2017 should be a better indication of just where we all stand, given general policies against intervention in critical election years [U.S. Presidential and UK “Brexit”].

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/17/2016 - 07:54 am.

        Buy Cheap

        You are correct that it did start in the 1980’s however I think you are likely blame the wrong cause. See figure 2.
        http://www.frbsf.org/education/publications/doctor-econ/2007/june/trade-deficit-exchange-rate

        As long as American consumers demand and buy the lowest cost products and services with no regard to the consequences for our low skill / low knowledge workers, compensation will fall. It is illogical to ask for high wages while buying from and rewarding companies that pay low wages.

        Cars are the easiest example. Look at all the popular models that are on the bottom half of this list. Imagine all of the trillions of dollars the US consumer have sent over seas to maximize their personal benefit.
        http://www.american.edu/kogod/autoindex/2015.cfm

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/20/2016 - 11:13 am.

          Cheaper Cars?

          Your comment got me to wondering if cars really are cheaper.

          In 1970, an AMC Gremlin (one of the least expensive new cars available) cost $1879, or a little more than $11K in 2016 dollars. The cheapest new car sold in America in 2016 is the Nissan Versa, MSRP $12,825.

          So no.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/20/2016 - 04:01 pm.

            Equal

            I agree with your numbers. 1970 CPI: 38.8 2015 CPI: 237.0
            That Gremlin in today’s dollars would be (1879/38.8) x 237 = $11,477

            Now for the big question… Do you think you are comparing equivalent products in terms of quality, performance, safety, features, aesthetics, etc? (ie a go kart costs less than a car) Look at all the cool things they shove into the new cars…
            http://www.nissanusa.com/cars/versa-sedan/versions-specs

            Let’s face it, the US automakers were making expensive, unreliable, poor performing, etc vehicles back then. They had become complacent.

            Speaking of hatchbacks, my Dad bought a 1975 manual yellow chevy vega wagon back then. It was a pretty fun car in my formative years.

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/20/2016 - 05:08 pm.

              Equivalence

              That’s true; comparing a Gremlin to a Versa is comparing two different cars. The Versa has more cool stuff to malfunction. My point is that in real dollars, what is available for the most basic transportation costs about the same as it did in 1970.

              “Let’s face it, the US automakers were making expensive, unreliable, poor performing, etc vehicles back then. They had become complacent.” You got that right. As I recall the 70s and 80s, the biggest thing driving the shift to Japanese import cars was the poor gas mileage in the models made in Detroit. It wasn’t so much that imported cars were cheaper, it was US automakers’ failure to adapt to higher gas prices.

              Everyone should learn to drive on a manual transmission.

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/21/2016 - 07:51 am.

                Research and Development

                Without 40 years of intense global competition I am scared to think what our cars would look like and how much they would have cost today… On the other hand, the GM Managers and Unions would have still been raking in our money…

                Yes, GM’s Managers and Unions were eating the seed corn… They were not investing enough into developing and producing better product. Like our government and those who support just giving them more money, they felt like a monopoly who did not need to strive to be efficient and effective. They provide an excellent cautionary tale for our country.

      • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/17/2016 - 10:07 am.

        So by Us and Them do you mean rich and poor?

        • Submitted by Tom Christensen on 04/17/2016 - 05:36 pm.

          I mean

          Pick anyone of the senseless standoffs we have in the US. As an example we have an Us vs Them because of a corrupt congress and an electorate that doesn’t pay attention when it comes to elections. No common sense is being applied by either party. It is where everyone thinks they are standing on the negotiating starting point and unwilling to move to find common ground. I know some think stonewalling and political claptrap is great fun. So sorry that is the only fun in their lives. I for one am not amused.

    • Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 04/17/2016 - 10:38 am.

      Mr. Gutman, I’m talking about the United States of America. The other countries you mention never really had a democratic tradition to start with, so their heavy-handed, from-the-top governmental interventions stemmed from an autocratic (i.e., dictatorial) model that just doesn’t apply to the U.S. of A. I repeat, the United States has a long tradition of trying to balance governmental support for capitalism with the desperately-needed restraints on capitalism that only government can provide. Check our history.

      • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/17/2016 - 05:21 pm.

        Danger ahead

        Governments are always in danger of falling off the cliff just because the oversight is limited and people’s desire for power is unlimited. I think I mentioned Italy and may add Greece to my list of dysfunctional governments… Yes, American government has been doing what you said it has been doing but there were plenty of cases when it went overboard and did the wrong things, one way or the other. Saying that more government is always better may be based on blind trust in government which is not a wise approach… And of course blaming just one side is always wrong…

        • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 04/19/2016 - 05:37 pm.

          There is no doubt historically that

          Russia/Soviet Union is at the top of the list for large countries as far as dysfunctional governments over thousands of years. Ivan the Terrible, Catherine the “Great”, Czar Nicholas (Rasputin), Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, and most of the leaders of the Soviet “Union”. Comparing that country to Greece, Italy or the US is laughable. It has nothing to do with the extent of gov’t.

  9. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/18/2016 - 10:02 am.

    Small government mumbo jumbo

    The objective of “small” or “limited” government has always been incoherent mumbo jumbo but the interesting thing is that American liberals actually bought into it. It was Bill Clinton after all who declared (after Reagan declared that government is the problem not the solution) that the era of “big” government was over. Al Gore oversaw the project that became largest privatization of government responsibilities in US history (remember: “Reinventing Government”).

    Even “liberal” intellectuals of sorts like Thomas Friedman embraced neo-liberal mumbo jumbo about “free” markets, private sector efficiency’s and self regulation. It’s simply embarrassing that it’s taken soooooo long for soooooo many supposedly intelligent Americans to recognize this “small” government gibberish for the magical thinking that it is.

    Republicans have always been prone to magical thinking but it was the liberal buy-in that ended up doing the most damage. The US is decades behind where we could have and and should have been politically, economically, and environmentally had the “New” democrats (i.e. Third Way “incrementalists”) of the 80s not taken over the democratic party. Democrats like the Clinton’s should have known there’s no such thing as magic but they gave a try anyways.

    One almost gets the feeling that some vestiges of magical thinking still persist among liberals when reading this article; A basic and irrefutable historical observation is being presented as a surprising insight but the real question is: “Where was Hacker (or someone like him) in the 80’s?” The history Hacker is talking about was ALWAYS there, he didn’t just discover it. Mr. Black actually goes out of his way to qualify the republican “War on government” as if it COULD be an exaggeration?

    The real problem is that while the conservative intellectual class disintegrated into a high school debate team “liberal” intellectuals took their minds on vacation and decided to give stupid a try as if it just might work. We put a bunch of acolytes of dystopian nonsense (Allen Greenspan Et al) in charge of the economy and hoped for the best. Then when the predictable and inevitable happened liberals tried to pretend “we” didn’t know any better.

    Of course while liberals were giving stupid a try, progressives were pointing out the obvious every day. I don’t know where Hacker was in the 80s and 90s but know where Howard Zinn was… and it wasn’t on the pages of the New York Times of “Face the Nation”.

    In psychology we make a distinction between “amnesia” and “motivated forgetting”. Amnesia is something that happens to you, motivated forgetting is something you do. When Americans began to embrace magical thinking en mass in the 80s it wasn’t amnesia, it was a deliberate rejection of history as if had become irrelevant. People even talked about the end of history.

    Right now the decades old conflict between liberal magic (i.e. Hillary Clinton) and activists progressives is playing out in the democratic primary. Obama made: “Don’t do stupid stuff” the unofficial motto of his presidency and establishment democrats want to return to station and give stupid a try once and while. Sanders wants to make the government work because working governments solve problems and make progress. Establishment liberals have become so enamored of their magical thinking that they’ve decided progress is impossible or even dangerous.

    So just to recap on the nature of magical thinking and small government mumbo jumbo, it IS and always WAS mumbo jumbo because:

    1) No powerful or prosperous nation or economy anywhere ever was built by a small government.

    2) The very concept of a properly “sized” government is incoherent because it simply cannot be defined. What is a properly “sized” government? What are we even talking about? The square feet of government offices? The number of employees? The cost? Taxes? What? No one anywhere at any time has EVER calculated any rational “ideal” targets on ANY of these metrics EVER.

    This is why conservatives and republicans have never given us a target, they just keep saying “smaller” and “less” than it is now whenever we ask. I know we have some commentors here that try to talk about an ideal rate of GDP percentage but that percentage isn’t based on any rational economics, it’s simply a number they’ve concocted. Government percentages of GDP vary from nation to nation and they vary within nations depending on circumstances. No one has ever linked those numbers to any coherent measurement of “freedom” or “prosparity” beyond noting that countries with low amounts of government spending in GDP tend to look like Somalia and Bangladesh while countries with higher government participation look the US, China, and Western Europe.

    3) There is simply no way to have a coherent conversation about the size of government. In liberal democracies like ours the size and participation of government is driven by whatever missions we assign. In other words we decide what we want the government to do, and the government is as big as it needs to be to do those things.

    4) Agenda’s that promote “limited” government are incoherent because we live in a liberal democracy with a constitution that necessarily “limits” government power and has been doing so for over 200 years. No one on our political landscape is promoting UNLIMITED government with the possible exception of republican candidates who want to establish some kind of theocracy or police state, or abolish the right to privacy in order to criminalize abortions. We know for instance that republican candidates like Trump are far more attractive to authoritarian personalities than liberal personalities. Ironically the actual implementation of “small” government ideology can only be accomplished by totalitarian governments. Once when Milton Friedman complained to Margret Thatcher that she’d hadn’t taken her “market” reforms far enough she replied: “My dear man, unlike Chile, England is still a democracy.”

    5) The notion that the private sector is more efficient is simply a myth. We have multiple examples of allegedly efficient private sectors from auto manufacturers to banks that have collapsed spectacularly under the weight of their own inefficiency and were subsequently rescued by the government.

    At any rate, I commend Mr. Hacker for putting common sense and basic historical observations back on the liberal table, but I wish it hadn’t taken so long.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/18/2016 - 05:19 pm.

      Thoughts

      We are by far the most successful country in the world. (ie wealth, influence, etc) And yet folks want to grow the government to align with many of the listed countries who have serious problems and/or little global influence.
      http://www.themandarin.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/general-government-expenditure-to-gdp.png

      Why would we want to do this? Thoughts?

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/18/2016 - 06:46 pm.

        It’s called: “democracy”

        No one wants to “grow” our government in order to be like another country. Some people do want America be a better country for Americans and they understand that the most efficient way to accomplish some projects and deliver benefits is via government programs, regulation, and spending. We call this our quest for a more perfect union, its our government and it’s OK to use it. This is the nature of democracy.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/18/2016 - 09:06 pm.

          Thankfully Democracy allows citizens who believe in the power of personal choices and responsibility to resist those who want to have government relieve us of the burden of those freedoms.

          Some examples:
          – People used to care for their elderly family members and help unfortunate people via charity. Now the government determines how much each us will pay for welfare / medicaid / social security / medicare and who will receive it?
          – People used to save and invest for their retirement, now the government decides how much you will pay in, where it will be invested, when it can be used and who will receive how much back?

          I am interested to see where this goes…

          • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 04/20/2016 - 11:20 am.

            Nope

            The reason we have Social Security, Medicare, and the like is because people didn’t do it on their own and government ended up taking care of these people anyway, so it made more sense to put together programs to make this happen in a rational way.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/20/2016 - 03:22 pm.

              Yep

              It is unfortunate but true that citizens can not be trusted on to save/ invest for their golden years and buy disability insurance. As you know, I am fine with SS and Medicare as long as they are kept solvent. (ie cut benefits or raise payroll tax rate)

              The biggest problems with them are that government is not raising the tax rate to stay aligned with the intended benefit. And the government only invested the funds in the lowest risk/ lowest return portfolio… (ie government bonds)

              On the upside, I wouldn’t look forward to my parents moving in with me when they become old and dependent… It is funny since most of my Chinese peers end up having their Parents move in with them when they get older. Definitely a much more family oriented culture.

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/18/2016 - 08:09 pm.

    Actually, I forgot something

    Yet another reason the “small” government gibberish fails produce any coherent discourse is it’s failure to recognize basic qualities of democratic governments. These complaints about the size of government pretend that the government exists as some kind of “other”, separate entity that exists independently regardless of popular will. In fact democratic governments are extensions of the electorate. To the extent that a democratic government “grows”, so does the democracy. In fact this is the historical trend in the US, over the last 200 years our democracy has “grown” to be more inclusive, more responsive, more equitable, and more diverse. Warnings that democracy can get too “big” or needs to be “smaller” are almost too nonsensical to entertain seriously.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/19/2016 - 08:39 am.

      Logic

      Now I am all for everyone voting. A 100% participative Democracy.

      However the idea that the size of government is directly related to the quality of a Democracy seems very flawed.

      Please remember that government is just a construct of the people to implement the will of the people. If this can be done by only collecting 25% of from every citizen, instead of 45%, I think most citizens would appreciate this. I mean this gives them 75% to spend on what they want instead of only 55%.

      Your argument “To the extent that a democratic government “grows”, so does the democracy. ” seems to say that the country with highest percentage of government workers would be the best Democracy. So it sounds like you are saying if we hire more public employees and give them more of our money… Things will improve…

      I think I would rather give them 33% and demand excellent results from the entity we created to implement our will.

      • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 04/19/2016 - 08:02 pm.

        Single pathed Conclusions

        Is it not possible to get more out of government for less? Conclusions are all drawn on one premise, all government is expensive and less value, than what? Is the preference we each build our own roads, bridges and highways? Do we each only take care of our own, and an indigent not so lucky is left to die on the side walk? We should each have our own police department, ambulance, hospital and fire department. We each should have our own sewer and water system as well as our own standards for waste disposal? The 33% and excellent results, sounds like an impossibility, Are your excellent result superior or inferior to others? The real message is “Value” and each has their own sense of value, and not all are capable of purchasing value, however their failure can affect our success. If the sewer and water systems for all are not providing “excellent results”, for all, we all have a problem, pollution, and it doesn’t care how much we do or do not pay in taxes. There are things that can not be separated as easily as we would like based on $.

  11. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/18/2016 - 09:11 pm.

    What can we do

    Mr. Christensen, I agree, common sense is gone… and should I add critical thinking is gone as well. Just look who people prefer in primaries… Everything is for show at best and to fool people at worst… But getting back to the government – you are right: America was at its best when we all worked together. Or, as JFK said, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” However, now many people ask for things from the government and government gives it to them allowing not to work…

    Mr. Willy, which countries on the list of the next big military spenders would you want to have the most influence in the world? Because if America is not #1, then someone will be and with that will come the ability to influence the world a lot… And what is the problem with 1% having most of the wealth if everyone else lives fine? Imagine a different civilization that owns 99% of the universe; will is matter for us on Earth as long as they let us live our lives well?

    Mr. Udstrand, what is that that “progressives were pointing out the obvious every day?” That socialism is good? That government should tell us what to buy and at what price? That people just need to do what they are told by the wise guys and everyone will live happily ever after? Sure, “working governments solve problems and make progress.” The problem is not when the government is working but when it is not and that happens all the time and the bigger that government is, the more often it happens.

    Now let’s analyze your points: America was powerful and prosperous in the beginning of the 20th century (relative to other countries, of course) and yet it had had limited government. On the other hand, Russia at that time had pretty much unlimited government and was neither. Sure, conservatives can’t say how “small” of a government they want to have. But progressives can’t say how “big” of it they want to have either. Sure, we, the people, decide how big (or small) the government should be. Of course, when people are basing their opinion on the falsehood of European reality, it is skewed but some people like to use it to their advantage. And finally, if private sector is not more efficient than the government sector, why wasn’t the Soviet Union the best country in the world?

  12. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/19/2016 - 03:43 pm.

    Illya, real quick

    The difference between the Soviet Union and the United States wasn’t the “size” of the government, it was TYPE of government. The Soviets had a Communist State with a command economy while the United States was and is a liberal democracy with a capitalist economy. It’s the difference between FDR and Stalin.

    As for the turn of the last century history is clear, while the US may have been strong and wealthy in 1900, it was many times stronger and wealthier in 1990 after decades of “growing” government. History simply demolishes the notion that growing governments weaken and impoverish nations.

    Finally, it’s simply ridiculous to compare the public sector in a liberal democracy to the state apparatus of a totalitarian regime.

    Again, there’s no rational way to make the “size” government a coherent conversation, and rational people don’t try, we talk about what we want our government to do and not do. Certain limitations are built in which is why we’ve never had an “unlimited” government and no one is advocating one.

    • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/19/2016 - 07:48 pm.

      This is the way it is

      I have lived in both Soviet Union and America and also have close friends in Finland, Sweden and UK and can assure you that governments act very similarly in all countries. Economic systems were indeed different in the USSR and the US but that made little difference in the overall approach which is wasteful because all governments spend someone else’s money (it was less wasteful here but still wasteful). Of course, government in the Soviet Union was corrupt, rude, and uncooperative on personal level and totalitarian in general but again, that did not affect the big picture of economic approach of the government.

      Sure, America in 1990 is more powerful than in 1900 but it is interesting that you did not compare 1900 to 2015… However, Europe is on decline because they crossed the line when big government becomes too big and we do not want to get to that point (or maybe we are already there…)

      No, it is not ridiculous to compare public sector in a democracy with the totalitarian regime: All public sectors are ineffective due to lack of personal interest and oversight (and large companies are also ineffective).

      And finally, you are correct that we are not talking the size of the government per se but what it does but the latter is directly related to the former and is easier to see. But conservatives do talk about government’s doing too much so the actual point is still the same.

      And by the way, you did not respond to my point about progressives wanting to move towards socialism and how prevent government from not working…

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/19/2016 - 09:04 pm.

        Claims devoid of evidence

        You’re claim that all governments are equally inefficient is obviously false. Some governments are more or less corrupt, organized, and efficient.

        We can say 2015 of you want, the point remains.

        You’re claims that all public sectors are inefficient and that Europe is in decline are simply not supported by history or available evidence. The belief in private sector supremacy has always been based on faith rather than evidence and ultimately devolve into magical thinking.

        Socialists tend to support a move towards socialism but progressives are not necessarily socialists so your question is based a number of false assumptions. We live in a liberal democracy not a socialist state. Most American Progressive believe in democracy and do not want to tear up our constitution in order to establish a socialist state. In fact, few American socialists actually want to tear up the constitution, they’d prefer to make new amendments like workers rights etc.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/20/2016 - 08:25 am.

          Things are a Changing

          The reality is that many of the countries the Far Left want to emulate are shifting back to the Right because they found out that the FAR Left had it’s problems too.

          http://money.cnn.com/2015/10/23/news/economy/denmark-inequality/
          https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2015/10/15/bernie-sanders-scandinavia-not-socialist-utopia/lUk9N7dZotJRbvn8PosoIN/story.html

          Like all pendulums, these swing back and forth.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/20/2016 - 08:55 am.

            There is no pendulum of history

            One of the biggest mistakes people make is this belief in some pendulum of history. It’s a mistake because it creates a place for people to disengage and assume politics don’t matter, that’s how we end up with crippled governments, gilded ages, and big giant recessions that never should’ve happened.

            What you see is simply change. That’s the strength of liberal democracy, it’s built in capacity to implement and respond to change. Unlike totalitarian regimes liberal democracies flex and bend instead of breaking. The Civil War, women’s suffrage, civil rights movement, etc. weren’t the product of some invisible swinging pendulums they were citizens in a democracy being citizens in a democracy. Conservatives like the idea of swinging pendulums because they effectively freeze history, a pendulum may swing but it never moves. This is why the main conservative project is to roll back the 20th century.

            This pendulum stuff is really just another form of magical thinking. My advice, forget the the pendulum, get involved, and don’t so stupid stuff.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/20/2016 - 10:33 am.

              Freedoms vs Economy

              I agree whole heartedly that societies can change and improve. (ie end slavery, women vote, civil liberties, care for the truly unfortunate, etc) These are the things our society wants. (ie our freedoms and values)

              However I believe how these are accomplished will swing. That balance between public and private control. When a country’s government gets too big, to rule bound, too bureaucratic and supports too many free loaders, the tax payers will push the ball to the Right. When tax payers see too many people suffering or too many infrastructure problems, they will push to the Left.

              The interesting thing is that the current highly competitive global economy and the fact that most consumers mainly care about a good deal, make bloated governments and programs that allow citizens to freeload very unsustainable. An effective right sized government is necessary to keep the citizens employed and highly compensated.

              Remember the GM provides the cautionary tale. The Employees, Managers and Owners were living large for decades building questionable vehicles and charging too much for them. Then more effective organizations taught them humility.

              • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/20/2016 - 12:00 pm.

                Sorry…

                “The interesting thing is that the current highly competitive global economy and the fact that most consumers mainly care about a good deal, make bloated governments and programs that allow citizens to freeload very unsustainable. An effective right sized government is necessary to keep the citizens employed and highly compensated.”

                Sorry but this basically gibberish because NONE of the concepts are definable or coherent. Consumers looking for good deals are not a product of competitive global economies, they’re a standard feature of any economy and always have been. Be that as it may, it has nothing to do with governance. “Bloated” governments are just a reference to previously mentioned gibberish about “size” that cannot be coherently defined. We can talk about inefficient or oppressive governments, but “right size” can’t be defined in any rational sense. For instance we can talk about whether or not something like the Import Export Bank is a good idea, but it CAN’T be bad idea simply because it “grows” the government. Likewise the definition of “freeloaders” etc. depends on stereotypes rather than any kind of factual economic analysis or rational definition. Basically the problem with this “right size” proposition is that it’s based on stereotypes i.e. bloated “beasts” and welfare kinds and queens etc, it’s policy by name calling. When you parse this stuff out you just always find that there’s simply no “there” there.

                • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/20/2016 - 12:46 pm.

                  If You Say So, but I am betting a country where 99.9% of citizens work hard to succeed in school and be successful in their career will out perform a country where 20% of the students fail in school and 5% of the citizens show low motivation to learn/ work/ build a career. And that a country who has an effective and efficient government / regulatory system will trounce one that has an excessive number of bureaucrats & regulations.

                  Just imagine if the US Tax Payers and Businesses were not burdened with paying $400 Billion in debt service, ~$1 trillion in Health and Human Services and if the huge Regulatory Burden Costs were reduced. I mean we may actually be able to build more stuff here, employee more workers, pay more and have a great infrastructure.

                  Instead that money is used to pay interest, pay money to folks who squandered their free schooling and pay to file tons of questionable paperwork that helps to keep thousand of bureaucrats employed.

                  • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 04/20/2016 - 01:25 pm.

                    Regulatory burden

                    On the topic of “regulatory burden”, the World Bank ranks the U.S. as having the 7th-best regulatory environment in the world for business owners. So there’s no real evidence that regulatory burden here represents a fundamental competitive disadvantage versus other countries. (And, keep in mind that the World Bank rating is based on New York and Los Angeles only — cities which have higher amounts of regulation than most of the country.) Not to mention the benefits that those regulations have for society at large. Even business owners need clean water.

                    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/20/2016 - 02:02 pm.

                      Clean water and…

                      Enforceable contracts, safe, efficient, and secure transit for supplies, products, and employees, fire and theft protection, the occasional subsidy, reliable power, educated employees… etc. etc. Again, the countries with regulatory “burdens” are the most affluent on the planet. Is this not common sense?

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/20/2016 - 03:09 pm.

                      Correction

                      Now we went through this before. The US scores 7 on “Ease of Doing Business”.

                      http://www.doingbusiness.org/rankings

                      Primarily because credit is easily available and we resolve Insolvency quickly. (ie bankruptcies) Please note we score 30 or higher in most other categories.

                    • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 04/20/2016 - 03:26 pm.

                      So what?

                      Our worst ranking is 53rd out of 189. Look at the other countries — everyone has areas where they are stronger or weaker. Overall, we are in good shape — and again, keep in mind this is based on NY and LA, which are likely to be worse than most of the rest of the country. And when you consider that our labor environment (which isn’t counted in this report) tends to be business-friendly — we have low private-sector unionization, no national paid leave requirements, low ratio of minimum wage to median earnings, etc. — we’re probably even better than 7th.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/20/2016 - 06:05 pm.

                      First, I only saw <40 viable manufacturing countries on the list. So if you are number 53 you are well down the list. Unless one want to compare to Libya, Egypt, etc. If we were in good shape, more companies would be opening factories here instead of shuttering them.

                      This site is interesting and has some good links at the bottom.
                      https://www.uschamber.com/regulatory-reform?tab=position#timeline

                    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/20/2016 - 03:27 pm.

                      Uh huh

                      And the countries that score “better” are how much more wealthy and powerful than the United States?

                  • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/20/2016 - 01:55 pm.

                    It’s actually simple John

                    Just name the country you’re describing that’s outperforming the US. Health care isn’t free anywhere and the debt was manufactured by small government republicans who kept telling us we had spending problem instead of a revenue problem, remember when they told everyone that tax cuts pay for themselves? Yeah, that was funny.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/20/2016 - 03:40 pm.

                      Just a Reminder

                      I think we have the best country in the world and am looking for only a little optimization to reduce the cost of government by a few %. (ie use the 33% more effectively)

                      It is the Liberals and the Conservatives who keep wanting big change… So please point an incredible power house of a country like ours anywhere else in the world? We are very fortunate people who live here.

                      By the way, it takes 2 groups to create debt… Those who spend too much and those who collect too little.

                    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/20/2016 - 09:10 pm.

                      It takes two?

                      Not to keep beating you down John but any single individual or entity can create a debt by overspending and under collecting, although more than one can be involved. The republicans typically do both the overspending and the under collecting, the Iraq War being just one example.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/21/2016 - 07:41 am.

                      Oh Please

                      Please note per the CBO that most of the recent increase occurred on Obama’s watch and after the Democrats had full control in 2009 & 2010. I am not certain why you want to blame only one party. They are all politicians, they all stay in office by promising more than we can afford to the current voter and borrowing the difference. (ie bill it to the future voters…)

                      https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/images/pubs-images/51xxx/51129-home-summaryfigure1.png

                    • Submitted by Anthony Walsh on 04/21/2016 - 09:08 am.

                      Oh Please

                      Before the current POTUS, our little adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan were not part of the official budget. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/mar/11/us-public-defrauded-hidden-cost-iraq-war
                      We also, switched bus drivers as the bus went over the cliff, and you pretend the new bus driver was not supposed to do anything to avoid the crash.
                      Tree, meet forest.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/21/2016 - 10:41 pm.

                      Please remember that many Democrats voted with the old bus driver throughout his time in office. And that the Democrats and the new bus driver were more concerned with passing a legacy healthcare program than raising taxes on the rich when they had full control. I am pretty sure the rich could have afforded higher taxes even during the recession. And the poor needed that extra funding then more than ever.

                      Please remember that I think politicians from both parties and many citizens are responsible for our mess…. I mean they all have wealthy donors and many of them are wealthy themselves… And they all want to get “stuff” for their voters, be it tax cuts, tax credits, programs and/or benefits.

                      Which citizens are willing to say, I am happy and will vote for you if you raise my tax rate, and/or cut my credit, program or benefits? I think many Americans are happy running a deficit today if it means they have more now, and can have someone else pay for it. Maybe it our culture’s norm to live in debt…

                    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/21/2016 - 09:14 am.

                      Please indeed

                      Please note that when Bush II came into office he had a surplus. Please note the number of republican run states, WI, IL, KS, LS, MI, AL, LA, MS, ND, AK all running deficits despite the “recovery”. The republican run states have the largest deficits, Kansas is a complete disaster. Republican states aren’t the only ones with deficits but the idea that democrats HAVE to be involved in creating deficits and debts is simply false. At any rate the last 40 have establish a clear pattern, whenever someone runs a government or economy the way republicans recommend, they end up with budget crises, debts and deficits.

  13. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/20/2016 - 09:34 am.

    Just drive the point home

    I think we can see now that nothing constructive can ever come out of a bunch gibberish about the size of government. These perspectives that emerge from the idea that our government is some kind of “beast” are simply too disconnected from reality to produce ANY coherent observations. It’s pure folly to pretend that anyone who either can’t or won’t recognize the difference between the Soviet Union and the New Deal will tell us anything important about policy or economics.

    The problem is that’s exactly what we’ve been doing for 30 years. We’ve been pretending that this mumbo jumbo about small or large government could inform good policy. This wasn’t just a fringe attitude contained to the extreme right, both conservative AND liberal Americans bought into it.This wasn’t amnesia, this was just plain stupid. What we need to be learning here is that stupid doesn’t work and it’s dangerous to pretend that it could work. Tax cuts do not produce magically efficient small government, and “limits” on government only make sense as long as your not limiting the government from doing what it’s supposed to do or what you want it to do. This is common sense is it not? Of course we pay for government but fortunately minds far greater than ours centuries ago figured out that the best way to pay for government is something called: “Taxes”. Contrary to the thinking of mediocre economists of our day taxes are not black holes into which wealth disappears, they are public investments that produce necessary infrastructures and services thereby improving our standard of living. Again, is this not common sense?

  14. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/20/2016 - 09:45 am.

    By the way…

    The EU has actually been following the US example of “small” government nonsense, they called it: “Austerity”. It’s been fail for them much the same way it’s failed us. To the extent that the EU is having economic problems it’s not because they lurched to the left, on the contrary, austerity was a conservative initiative.

    And before someone tries to talk to about the Greek crises, let me point out that the Greek crises occurred simply because the Greek Government never collected the taxes or revenue they needed to cove their costs. If that sounds familiar it’s because it looks exactly like budget crises, deficits, and debts that republicans in this country always create… because they refuse to collect enough revenue to cover the costs. Magic it would seem, doesn’t work in Greece any better than it does in the US. The Greek crises wasn’t a product of leftist big government, it was a product of conservative magical thinking.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/20/2016 - 06:11 pm.

      Choice

      Do you really think the EU just chose to change for no reason?

      The reality is they need to be cost competitive in this world economy, and they were not. Even the Germans are moving to Mexico…
      http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2015/06/15/auto-jobs-mexico/71224972/

      I think if Mexico could get their corruption under control, they could become a very successful country very quickly.

      • Submitted by Jim Million on 04/20/2016 - 07:18 pm.

        Say, guys

        I caution you all to leave EU assertions to others, unless you really understand the operations, politics and financial circumstances of member countries.

        They ain’t that much like us in very many ways.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/21/2016 - 09:21 am.

          Concepts

          Agreed, however often folks like to point at one itty bitty Northern European country as a model of Liberal policy success. Where as to compare apples and apples one would need to compare the USA to the whole EU. We have our Mississippi and they have their Greece. We have our Minnesota and they have their Denmark. And on the whole I think the USA with our policies / government is much better off than Europe.

          In one way they are very similar to us… They consist of humans with different capabilities, values, initiative, tenacity, families, self discipline, priorities, etc. Therefore many of the high level concepts apply.

          • Submitted by Jim Million on 04/21/2016 - 03:10 pm.

            Don’t forget

            they have Parliamentary government, well, mostly all. One may quibble over Russia.

            No Prime Ministers here. Not the same structure there. Makes a very big difference in policy metrics.

    • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/20/2016 - 07:14 pm.

      Let’s talk facts

      I never said that all governments are equally inefficient; I just said that they are similar in their efficiency and even mentioned that Soviet government was corrupt, rude, etc. But the point is, more or less, they are all inefficient while private business must be efficient in order to survive while governments exist regardless of their efficiency.

      Of course, Europe is in decline – just looks at what is happening with the southern European countries (sure, Greece had huge government with high costs and inefficiency and did not have enough people to pay taxes) and even Nordic countries are starting to get in trouble (http://news.yahoo.com/end-scandinavian-dream-080000813.html, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-News/2015/1206/Finland-wants-to-give-all-citizens-rich-or-poor-a-monthly-payment).These are pure facts and have nothing from faith. In fact, an idea that governments can meet all people’s needs is a belief not supported by any facts because there are no examples in history when it happened.

      As for Progressives and their beliefs, it is enough to see them voting for a socialist in droves. And their belief in democracy is limited to people who agree with them; when people disagree, progressive students want to shut them up.

      Now, about pendulum. In your mind, what is the next step after Nordic system? Shouldn’t it be real socialism when everyone is literally equal?

      You said that “the countries with regulatory “burdens” are the most affluent on the planet. Is this not common sense?” If this were common sense, Cuba and North Korea would have been the most affluent countries… America is the most affluent exactly because it is the last to come to having more regulations compared to other free countries.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/21/2016 - 11:53 am.

        Excellent Summary

        The reality is that countries need to compete in a world that is more Flat.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_World_Is_Flat

        Consumers just aren’t willing to pay more for something of lower value anymore. This will be good for people who live in efficient /effective competitive societies and not so good for those who live in bureaucratic inefficient /ineffective societies.

  15. Submitted by DENNIS SCHMINKE on 04/21/2016 - 10:36 pm.

    MOre Govt–Better Faster

    This show huge disrespect for the law of unintended consequences. Some things get better (more freedom–less discrimination) some things get a WHOLE lot worse. Culture for example…as we approach 50% of all births to single mothers, and approaching 80% among the black population.

    We can NEVER recover from those kinds of shifts. And while a case could be made that government caused it, I don’t think government can fix it.

    Sad.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/22/2016 - 08:12 am.

      Agreed

      And worse yet, many here want to double down on the policies that supported this disastrous shift. I point to both sides on this one.

      The Conservatives that still want to make it harder for poor immature women to get on and stay on birth control, or get an early term abortion.

      And the Liberals who want to totally remove the negative consequences of these poor choices. I still remember Sanders saying that our society should be such that a single Mother can make or be given enough money to raise her family.

      Of course the losers in both these situations are the unlucky kids who are being raised by a single parent who is likely not prepared to do the job well. Thus we have the academic achievement and wealth gaps…

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/22/2016 - 09:17 am.

        What?

        “And the Liberals who want to totally remove the negative consequences of these poor choices.” So we are going to punish women for life because of their “poor choices?”

        I haven’t done a detailed study on this, but I will venture that most single parents are not there by a conscious choice in advance, celebrity gossip notwithstanding. Most people who marry probably believe that they are going to stay married forever, and divorce is something that happens as a way out of a bad situation (Hobson’s choice, if you insist on framing it as a choice).

        “Of course the losers in both these situations are the unlucky kids who are being raised by a single parent who is likely not prepared to do the job well.” If we are punishing parents for their bad choices, the consequences are felt mainly by the kids, but also by the rest of us.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/22/2016 - 10:48 pm.

          Punish vs Reward

          Is the single Parent entitled to have other Tax Payers pay to feed, house and clothe their child(ren)?

          Now I see welfare, child support and Medicaid as rewards/gifts from society. A citizen(s) gets themselves in trouble and society chooses to help carry their load. If society chooses to not give them money and benefits, it is not a punishment… It is natural consequences.

          If society chooses to eliminate the negative consequences of a person making bad choices. It is more likely that more citizens will make that unfortunate choice. I mean it does not cost them much, since the tax payers and our society is paying for it.

          By the way, this is not about divorce. ~70% of babies are born out of wedlock…
          http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4865449

        • Submitted by Jim Million on 04/24/2016 - 08:01 pm.

          Good Conclusion, RB

          This thread has become far too tangled for me to further follow. Interesting points, however, even when stubbornly repeated by some.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/22/2016 - 10:48 am.

        Negative consequences?

        It’s not that liberals want to remover negative consequences, it’s that conservatives believe governments should discipline people who don’t behave the way conservatives think people should behave… and that’s supposed to be a vision of “limited” government.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/23/2016 - 09:33 am.

          Again

          Of course the Liberals want to remove the negative consequences.

          If there was no government, the natural state would be that the parent(s) would need to struggle to feed themselves and their offspring through working / begging. It would be a pretty huge burden.

          Instead, Liberals insist that society remove this load from their shoulders and move it to the shoulders of all the tax payers. Whereas Conservatives believe the people who make poor choices should deal with more of their own natural consequences. No punishment, just natural consequences.

          Like if my daughter spends too much on clothes and can not afford to go to a movie with her friends. My not giving her extra money to go have fun is not a punishment, it is just a negative natural consequence….

  16. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/22/2016 - 08:41 am.

    Huh?

    No coherent case can be made that government “causes” or controls pregnancies. We live in a country where single women are free to have babies and government doesn’t dictate what “families” have to look like.

    I don’t know why some people seem to think that putting a hyper link in their comment actually proves something.

    The primary difference between North Korea and Cuba, and the US, isn’t the regulatory burden placed on business, it’s the fact that some of these countries are dictatorial regimes and others are liberal democracies. The idea that Americans will wake up in a country like North Korea some day if we don’t stop raising taxes and regulating our business is simply, completely, and irrevocably, absurd, yet that’s premise republicans have been promoting for decades.

    By the way, we should recognize the fact that the whole function of governments, society, and life, is not to create a perfect environment for “business” and “profits”. The whole project of creating a more perfect union isn’t about converting every human in society into a cog in an economy that generates wealth for 10% or less of the population. A society full of such cogs is just another form of tyranny, not democracy. This is why Jefferson actually changed Lock’s premise- “Life, Liberty, and Property”, to: “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”. It’s not an insignificant change.

    • Submitted by carter meland on 04/22/2016 - 09:27 am.

      best line

      “This is why Jefferson actually changed Lock’s premise- “Life, Liberty, and Property”, to: “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”. It’s not an insignificant change.”

      This is the best line in this entire exchange.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/22/2016 - 11:06 am.

      Citizen Responsibility

      Like all organizations of people, our country will only maximize the “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” promise if everyone is a productive and responsible citizen. Meaning that everyone helps to row the boat.

      Unfortunately though our society provides welfare for many and free K-12 education for all. Many of our young citizens are failing to become academically proficient and seriously employable. In a large part because of their parental role models and because the public education system rewards tenure over results.

      Ironically as I have said before… The 10% will make money whether the American workers succeed or not. They and our consumers just invest in the countries and companies where the government and citizens support excellence, effectiveness and efficiency. And the countries and citizens who don’t will continue to struggle.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/22/2016 - 02:00 pm.

        Well…

        “Like all organizations of people, our country will only maximize the “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” promise if everyone is a productive and responsible citizen. Meaning that everyone helps to row the boat.”

        Yeah, we should all be like the republicans running congress… productive and responsible. You see the problem right? Maybe that’s why such stipulations were left OUT of the Constitution? This is just politics by name calling and stereotype, we’ve already discussed this.

        By the way, I hope readers noted the jab at free K-12 education… yeah, lets get rid of that, who needs a bunch of freeloading 6 year old’s chewing up our tax dollars!

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/22/2016 - 11:01 pm.

          Responsible

          As for Congress, sometimes cutting spending is the most responsible thing one can do. Especially when you have a $20 TRILLION national debt.

          I have no desire to cut kindergarten. My point is that society and tax payers are investing between $130,000 to $260,000 into each and every child in America. (more in some cases) Much of which goes into the pockets of Teachers and Administrators. Unfortunately millions of students each year can not achieve basic academic proficiency.

          And after the Parents, Teachers and Students have failed to make good use of this huge investment, the folks on the Left demand that we continue to send more money to these folks… I am curious about the rationale?

          What does it mean to be a responsible citizen from your perspective? I like Kennedy’s view.

          “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy

    • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/22/2016 - 08:34 pm.

      Please respond

      Mr. Udstrand, the difference between dictatorships and democracies are irrelevant when it comes to government efficiency. So no, we will not wake up to North Korea reality but we will just slowly bleed to death because government will waste all our money. And I would appreciate it if you respond to my previous post because it was a response to your post.

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