“The government’s view of the economy can be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”
~President Ronald Reagan, 1986
President Reagan’s comment perfectly captures the bizarre, contradictory, suffocating, Orwellian essence of big government, as well as its self-perpetuating nature.
First, preening politicians scapegoat successful industries and businesses, baselessly accuse them of “gouging” and punish them via excessive “windfall profit” taxes or by facilitating class action lawsuits. Then, if the targeted industries survive, armies of bureaucrats impose innumerable and indecipherable regulations that even lawyers cannot reconcile. Finally, when that procession of taxes, lawsuits, bureaucrats and regulations successfully suffocates the targeted entrepreneurs, the same politicians heroically swoop in to revive the corpse that they themselves have created.
The American automobile industry provides an obvious example. Recently reviled by liberals as producers of fuel-guzzling, environment-ravaging behemoths foisted upon helpless soccer moms, it was overtaxed and saddled with crippling regulations and economy standards. Then, when those regulations pushed the automakers to the brink of death, along came government bailout dollars wrenched from the wallets of American taxpayers who were themselves suffering during this economic downturn.
And this week, President Reagan’s wisdom about the nature of big government was illustrated perhaps more vividly than ever before.
After advocating the aforementioned taxpayer bailout for General Motors and Chrysler just last month, President Obama turned around and ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to accept proposals from individual states to impose even higher emissions standards.
In a similar move, the Obama Administration also announced this week that it will order the Department of Transportation (DOT) to present new automobile fuel economy regulations by March, so that they can be imposed on 2011 model-year cars.
Together, these decrees constitute an interesting and revealing victory of one constituency to which the Democratic Party is captive over another: environmentalists over unions. The United Auto Workers (UAW) has already protested that these regulations inflict particular harm upon American automakers and their unionized workforces, who produce larger trucks, minivans and sport-utility vehicles than their less-unionized foreign counterparts. Unfortunately for them, it now appears that Obama places environmental alarmists above Big Labor on his special-interest pyramid.
But more fundamentally, this latest episode exposes once again the maddening, repulsive character of big government.
For decades, federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards have crippled the American automobile industry by forcing them to produce smaller, less-safe vehicles that consumers refused to purchase. In addition, such regulations failed to achieve their intended goal, because higher fuel economy encouraged drivers to live further from their workplaces, drive more often, and crowd highways and city streets even more.
As destructive as those regulations were, however, at least there was generally one federal standard, rather than a spaghetti bowl of complex and conflicting environmental mandates from each of the fifty states. Imagine for a moment the incredibly complex and costly process of designing and manufacturing automobiles for fifty different environmental regimes that are tougher than the federal government’s.
Now, with the stroke of a pen, President Obama has compounded automakers’ difficulties. Under his order, automakers may ultimately be required to manufacture different vehicles for whatever states impose their own unique mandates. Indeed, no fewer than seventeen states have already indicated that they will do so.
So how does this square with the farcical auto bailout pushed through just last month?
It doesn’t, of course.
Rather, it illustrates once again the endless destruction that occurs when we allow government to grow and play an increasingly prevalent role in our lives. In a veiled rebuke to President Reagan’s characterization of big government, President Obama attempted to change the subject by asserting:
“The stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works.”
But Obama’s attempt to change the subject completely misses the larger point. Namely, that bigger government – by its very nature – doesn’t work as well as smaller government. When government becomes too big, it naturally undertakes the type of contradictory, toxic behavior that we’re now witnessing. When government is more limited, the opportunities for such bureaucratic harm are reduced.
This farcical episode of government subsidizing American automakers with one bloated hand, while stabbing it with another, is merely the latest proof.January 29, 2009
|News About The Supreme Court Conservative News Legislative News Congressional News Agricultural News Campaign Finance Reform News Judicial Confirmation News Energy News Technology News Internet Taxation News Immigration News Conservative Newsletter Legal Reform News Humorous Legal News News About Senator Kennedy News About The War In Iraq Tribute to President Ronald Wilson Reagan|