The Engines of Government's Growth
Patrick J. Buchanan
June 23 2004
Perusing the Washington Post on Sunday, two
stories leapt out that suggest that America may have passed that point beyond
which the growth of government can never again be reined in.
The balance of forces in this city has turned against fiscal restraint, and
deficits ad infinitum may be our future, until we go the way of the great
commercial republics of the past: Holland, Spain and Great Britain.
The first is a front-page story, "Lawmaker-Turned-Lobbyist a Growing Trend on
Hill," about two of the most powerful members of the Senate, Don Nickles of
Oklahoma and John Breaux of Louisiana.
Nickles has one of the finest conservative voting records in the Senate. Breaux,
from the standpoint of a conservative, is about as good as you can get in the
Democratic Party, unless you are talking about Zell Miller of Georgia, the gold
Though in the prime of their careers, Breaux and Nickles are retiring. Are they
going home to practice law? To write books? To run a college? Nope. They'll both
be staying in town.
Writes Post reporter Jeffrey Birnbaum: "Lobbying-law firms all over town are
salivating at the idea of hiring one or both of the well-connected senators ...
And Breaux and Nickles are anything but coy about their future intentions to
Breaux estimated to Birnbaum that he has already chatted with five investment
banks, 10 law firms, 10 trade associations and 10 corporations that might want
him on their boards. "I had no idea the number of opportunities that are out
there," said Breaux.
Like hundreds of ex-congressmen and senators, Breaux and Nickles will line up
with the corporate elite in their unending struggles with the government. But
other than seeking deregulation of the companies they will represent, they will
likely be seeking tax breaks, to hold on to old subsidies or to get new
They will not be working for citizens and taxpayers who have a vital interest –
family survival and the preservation of a republic – in holding down the growth
of government, or reducing its cost or size.
Today, lobbyists in this city who want something from the U.S. government, for
which taxpayers must pay, number in the tens of thousands. Now that the GOP has
become a party of Big Government, there is no taxpayer lobby with anything like
that kind of firepower.
Which brings us to the second story in the Post, an admiring piece on Rep. Jim
DeMint, campaigning for the Senate from South Carolina, on making all
beneficiaries of Big Government pay for its care and feeding.
Asks DeMint, "How can a nation survive when a majority of its citizens, now
dependent on government services, no longer have the incentive to restrain the
growth of government?" DeMint speaks of an "eleventh-hour crisis in our
His words echo those of Scottish Professor Alexander Tyler, writing more than
200 years ago, on the fall of the Athenian republic.
"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government," wrote Tyler. "It
can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money
from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the
candidates promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result
that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a
Today, 18 million Americans work in government – in health, education, the
military, and local, state and federal bureaucracies. The number of Americans
receiving Social Security and Medicare is in the scores of millions, with 77
million baby boomers not far back in line now.
There are millions receiving veterans' benefits, tens of millions on food
stamps, Medicaid and welfare, and millions more who receive the Earned Income
Credit – i.e., they pay no income tax, but get an annual income supplement from
the U.S. government.
The lower half of the U.S. labor force carries roughly 4 percent of a federal
income tax burden that is largely borne now by the top 10 percent of earners.
Then, there is corporate welfare, which Beltway lobbyists fight to preserve and
expand, and the pork-barrel projects congressmen simply must take home to their
In Latin America, many governments have passed the tipping point, voting to
deliver more in benefits than citizens could afford. Repeatedly, they have had
to be bailed out by the U.S.-backed International Monetary Fund. Europe's
welfare states are in crisis. Immigrant workers from the Islamic world are
needed to maintain benefits that are being cut. Like the Athenian republic, the
American republic may be on the same path.
© 2004 Creators
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