GROWING AMERICA OUT OF DEPENDENCY:
Ronald Reagan was right about a number of things. Not the least of these was
his insistence that if we cut taxes enough it would stimulate the economy and
balance the budget if we held the line on spending in Congress. It took almost
twenty years, but especially after the Gingrich Revolution, the deficit began to
close at the end of the century, although it had begun to close even before that
until the savings and loan bailout undertaken by the first Bush administration.
The increased economic activity on the tax cut would reap enough new revenue
for government to achieve the balanced budget over time.
We can apply the same reasoning to the problem we face of dependency. It
has become the case that close to half of America is dependent on the other
half for its livelihood; or rather, that government has put itself in the position
of taking wealth from half of the population to support the other half. This cements
the position of government even as it stymies economic growth and development.
Making so many people dependent on government also helps the liberal politicians
sustain themselves in office, as the protectors and protagonists of the dependent
masses. This does not mean that all these millions are on welfare, or even at the
trough of corporate welfare. But it does include those who work for government,
receive payouts or subsidies of one form or another, or rely on the dole in any of
a number of its variations.
It is not even suggested that such payouts are always and inherently evil. Some
of them may indeed engender wealth creation and where they do that they are not
only not harmful, but may be very constructive, as with the space program or the
construction of the interstates. They are also in situations critically necessary, as
with military expenditures.
However, the long term prospects for an America in which one of two people depends
on the government and the other half of the population for its existence are dismal,
because it is a drag on continued economic development. Had we had that condition
prior to the dawn of the welfare state, we could not have become the economy we have or enjoy the standard of living we have come to have. In years to come, the
continued dependency state will, with rising population, and government revenue growth rising more slowly as the public sector devours such large chunks of the
wealth of the nation, lead to lowered standards of living for the population as it
moves from existence to subsistence.
The only reason that there is any hope whatsoever is that the American economy
is so immense. Were it not, the dependency state might well be a death knoll;
a malignancy which would kill the private sector host it feeds upon, as well as
the vampire politicians who suck the lifeblood out of the economy to pursue power
by enhancing the public sector.
But Reagan had a point. If we can contain the growth of the public sector, if we can
limit the further growth of dependency, the private sector is going to continue to grow.
To the extent that this can happen, the private sector will outstrip the growth of the
public sector and the proportion of those dependent on the government will diminish
even if in real numbers it continues to grow, and ever so gradually, America would
grow out of this dependency cancer.
It will not be easy. Those who are dependent are going to clamor for more, and there
are constantly those, particularly among those who seek power in office by being
able to increase the dole, to devise new programs and increased dependency. The
number of people willing to go along with such schemes is also seemingly
inexhaustible. Getting something for nothing is as popular as it is mythical.
Any more immediate solution may be impossible, however. Dependency cannot be
done away with by surgically removing the dependent host. It has too much political
punch and is not going to give it or its money up. So, the Reagan solution may be
the only way out of the quagmire. This time it may take longer than it did to balance
the budget. It may take fifty years. To the extent that we can limit the growth of the public sector, however, that day is geometrically closer. The alternative is unthinkable. The slippery slope leads to disaster; to Malthus and totalitarianism --
the twin evils of collectivism.
It took fifty years to create this monster. It may take another fifty to undo it. But there
is a way out. Ronald Reagan showed us how!