GOVERNMENT ON A DIET

The federal government is everywhere. It’s in the gas tank of my car, my kids’ lunchroom (or used to be, before I got gray and they flew the nest), and my closet—that’s one of the rooms I light with—horrors!—incandescent bulbs. Thankfully, (and forgive me Mr. Edison), these will be relegated to the status of eight-track tapes and floppy disks in 2012 when the president bans them. One pundit says we use more electricity on a single Google click than an incandescent bulb burns in an hour. I haven’t confirmed the truth of this, but I think a $2 million government study is in order to find out.

The point is, we can’t begin to cut back on government spending until we shrink government back to its proper size. And to determine its proper size, we need to agree on a job description: For me, it’s to provide for the common defense. I define this broadly, as I’ve indicated in prior rants, to include legislating to preserve the marketplace and protect capitalism, the economic engine of our great nation, from corruption. It’s hard to do this while distracted by lunchroom menus, warm, fuzzy closet lighting, and big lobbyist checkbooks.

So, where do we start? I propose with the Departments of Energy and of Education. The superfluous nature of the latter bureaucratic institution and its intrusion on the constitutional mandate that powers not expressly granted the federal government are the purview of the states was obvious to me. Those of you that feel strongly that the education of our kids is of such importance to our nation’s future that Uncle Sam needs to be involved should examine closely the state of our educational system and the performance of our students. I grant you that much improvement in state and local management is needed (I direct the interested reader to John Stossel’s investigative documentary “Stupid in America”) but I fail to see how the lumbering, expensive bureaucratic involvement at the federal level is helping.

Glenn Beck brought the excesses of to the Department of Energy to my attention in Broke, his analysis of the country’s economic woes. This cabinet-level monstrosity was created by Jimmy Carter in the 1970s to end our dependence on foreign energy and to regulate oil prices. Another great success. They’ve morphed into a crusade to “save the planet” according to a 2009 agency financial report cited by Beck. He argues that most of the DOE’s tasks can be privatized or eliminated. It’s beyond the scope of this short treatise to detail his arguments, but those interested are invited to evaluate this on their own.

I tell my patients that diets don’t work because the results tend to be short-lived; only true lifestyle changes structured to the maximum level of long-term implementation have a chance. The same is true of whittling down our government institutions. If we don’t have a fundamental change in the way we view the purpose of our government, even if we manage to surmount the tremendous hurdles immediately before us, in a few decades we’ll be right back where we started.

Next: On the road to a new lifestyle

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