Government Spending Argument Has Flaws

To The Reader’s Forum:

On Saturday, March 29, columnist Dan McLaughlin wrote a piece posing the question: “Does Government Spend Enough?” However, his real question was in the last paragraph that starts, “What is the right size of government?” which he then answers without any discussion by saying “it is now far too large.” The two questions are not the same because even a small government may, or may not spend “enough,” or could spend more than a larger government.

So, what is Dan getting at? Well, he apparently doesn’t like “stimulus” spending and does not like anti-poverty or other programs that seem to provide direct benefits to many Americans. He seems to feel that they are over-financed, but, of course fails to mention other categories of spending such as on the “military-industrial complex,” wars of choice, tax subsidies for business and wealthy individuals. Are those priced just right?

He does say there is “some value to public roads and schools” and likes national defense. But, then goes on to say “government shouldn’t be doing much of what it does” yet offers no examples of what “could be done much more effectively by private competitive enterprise.” Perhaps he should read up on how the federal government operates, which, by law, requires public-private competition for services that are not “inherently governmental.” He would find that a large majority of competition is won by public employees.

With all that money allegedly being thrown around willy-nilly, you’d think the private sector would be all over it, fighting each other to get the rewards, but they’re not. Oh, wait, perhaps the “no-bid” contract awarded to (Dick Cheney’s) Halliburton Company, to service the Iraq war, is the new definition of “competitive enterprise” that Dan alludes to. He would also find that the cost of contractor services has virtually no post-contract oversight so it is almost impossible to tell if private enterprise is not impeding progress, stifling innovation, destroying real wealth and trampling personal rights, the supposed evils of public spending.

I think Dan also enjoys “new math” when he states that government costs households “90 percent of their income.” Really? What Dan does fails to explain is that you would pay the same for the goods and services government provides if it was handled by private enterprise. However, in my household most of our income goes to food, housing/utilities, clothes, transportation, entertainment, savings and the like. How about you?

Paul Demler