Bumper sticker logic retards the debate

Seen on a car window in Leavenworth this week:

If you don’t want to pay taxes you must not want; educationfor our children, roads, bridges and airports, benefits to veterans, scienceand medical research, state and national parks, social security and Medicare,police and fire protection, hospitals & libraries, OR maybe you just don’twant to do your share!!!!!

In other words, quit your complaining and pay your taxesbecause the empire is working hard for you. I don’t know if this was a localcar or somebody from the Wetside, but clearly they don’t understand how ourAmerican system works and the problem is that too many of our citizens arebeginning to think this way.

Yes government and only government can do certain things,but that list is quite short. For example, historically the private sector hassuccessfully run effective schools. Private research labs have done most of themedical research, and private hospitals still do provide most of the medicalcare in this country. Many critics of government would argue that these privatesector organizations have been much more efficient and effective in these tasksthan their government run counterparts.

But the author of the above BS (bumper speech) doesn’tbelieve you should question the government. For him it is enough that the jobis getting done. Well if that’s the case then let’s just cancel elections andsave us all the time and expense of voting. After all the people who run thegovernment have our best interests at heart. And who really needs all thatstress just trying to understand these debates? Life would be so much simplerand less stressful if we just bowed to the king and paid our taxes.

The problem is that left unchecked government will continueto grab more power. Many critics of our government today believe it has becomemuch too large and as a result, unresponsive to the electorate. Many believethat the last Congress has looked at the voters not as people they were electedto represent, but as subjects to be ruled. In that environment they no longerneed to listen to the voters they begin to decide what they think is best forus.

The “BS” also assumes that government is an efficientadministrator of our resources. But it is government spending that is out ofcontrol. Tax revenues have been increasing but spending is increasing fasterthan the revenue. Continuing to increase taxes in that environment encouragespoor spending discipline by our elected representatives and public sectoremployees.

The issue here is just what are the essential functions ofgovernment and exactly which level of government is responsible for thosefunctions? For example, let’s just consider education. There is nothing in theU.S. Constitution that gives the Federal government any responsibility foreducation. Our country led the world for decades before President Carter decidedlocal governments needed help. Today the Federal Department of Education’sbudget is $62 billion and it is asking for a 30% increase to $82 billion nextyear. The primary effect of that Federal spending has been to allow states toreduce their spending on education. Last year the State of Washington wassuccessfully sued by the Bellevue School District for failing to meet theirconstitutional obligation to fund basic education. The governor’s answer tothat suit was to further reduce state spending by using new Federal money tobalance the state education budget. Washington State is not unusual. Anincreasing number of government critics believe shutting down the FederalDepartment of Education would actually improve education while eliminatinganother layer of unproductive bureaucracy and saving the taxpayers money.

It is time we all began to remember that the government issupposed to work for us. Instead of yelling at each other about our need to payour share we need to be yelling at our representatives that their firstpriority is to make sure government is efficient. We need less “BS” and moreinformed, adult discussions about the things government should do and whatgovernment should leave to the private sector.