A Plea for a Return of Fiscal Responsibility

I’ve written a number of posts focusing mainly on Republicans and conservative ideals and haven’t written much recently about Democrats or liberal ideals. While I’ve never downplayed my conservative beliefs, when I started this blog (back when it was hosted by Blogger) it was intended to be a fairly balanced look at U.S. politics. I’ve drifted away from that some because I felt the need to share my conservative voice with others, even if few read my blog. I’m an open critic of the Bush administration’s fiscal policies. I know Pres. Bush inherited an economy in a recession that was quickly struck by the horror of 9-11. The economy faltered but then grew stronger; it was strong for a few years and recently turned downwards. I do not believe we are in a recession and I agree with John McCain that the fundamentals of the economy (e.g., businesses, innovation, hard work, etc.) are still strong.

We are passing through some hard times (I’m not trying to minimize any individual suffering but we are in a nation with hundreds of millions of people) but so far it has not been anything serious. Gas prices are high but I believe that high gas prices are a blessing – they lead to the development of alternative potentially cheaper and more environmentally-friendly technologies. The stock market has been volatile but stock markets always are. My mutual fund hasn’t been performing well over the past year but this particular fund is a long-term investment (it did quite well the previous year) and stock markets always go up over time given enough time.

I don’t believe that U.S. presidents have that much influence on the economy – they certainly have some but in reality it’s pretty limited. Congress probably has a little more influence on the economy but still pretty limited. However, I’m still pretty disgusted by all the deficit spending our nation is doing (again, you can’t put all the blame on Pres. Bush; after all, Congress has to actually set all the spending, the President just approves it; further, there are fewer tax revenues when the economy isn’t as strong, which also affects the deficit). What happened to good old fiscal conservatism? Where are the politicians who believe we shouldn’t spend more than we earn, except in emergencies? Many states run just fine and have budget surpluses. Granted, states receive a lot of money from the federal government but the problem is out-of-control spending in general. We are a consumerist society. We have to have the latest and greatest now! Our government seems to think that we have to try and fund as much as we can, after all, each of us is entitled to handouts from the government.

The recent economic woes have little to do with the government; they stem largely from from our entitlement society. People expect a lot from the government (we should all expect a lot of the government, just not from); many expect too much. We also feel entitled to our individual rights over individual and social responsibility. This leads to excessive consumption by society as a whole, which is also reflected in governmental spending. If we can’t control our spending, how can we expect our government to control its spending? I’m not completely opposed to “big government”; our world is very complex today, much more complex than when the country was founded. The government has to be more involved than it was in the past. However, if our spending is higher than our income, we must curtail our spending. I’m aware that many economists feel that keeping a deficit is necessary for healthy economic growth and that balanced budgets hold us back from growth potential; however, we’ve been increasing our federal deficit and national debt for so long that we have to get it under control. I’m not an advocate of raising taxes, especially when the government wastes so much money. You never solve a problem like our government has by throwing more money at it. This means that the only way to eliminate our deficit and national debt is to seriously reduce our spending. It’s painful – no one likes having their money taken away. It’s not an easy job because people would complain and lobby against the spending cuts. Most people who want the government to reduce spending don’t want the government to take away their money.

The easiest way to start is to eliminate redundancies and close loopholes. Simplifying and streamlining the tax codes and process would immediately produce sizable benefits. We should eliminate many of the farm subsidies, for example. Right now the government is like a massive, largely mismanaged company. Departments need to be modernized and streamlined. Consultants need to be pulled in to help with the process. The government needs to be treated more like a corporation (I’m not saying it should be a corporation, it just needs to be managed more like one). We need to elect officials who have the guts to tackle the economic problems of the government.

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