It’s good fun to mock politicians’ inability to keep their pants on and to wage culture war against those awful people on the other side of the political divide, but at some point we’re going to have to pay some attention to a growing problem in our midst. While we rubberneck at freak-show headlines, the deeply flawed officials who provide so much distraction have expanded the size and power of the government they control to an extent not seen since the days of global warfare, with no plan for restraining or even sustaining the behemoth they’ve created.
“The U.S. effort in World War II was off the charts,” Calvin Woodward of the AP reported last month. “Battles spread over three continents and four years, 16 million served in uniform and the government shoved levers of the economy full force into defeating Nazi Germany and imperial Japan. All of that was cheaper for American taxpayers than this pandemic.”
Trillions of dollars are being spent, we are told, to alleviate economic pain caused by the pandemic, off-set government-mandated lockdowns, and develop vaccines. But, while politicians talk a fair game about helping us, first the Trump and then the Biden administrations have taken advantage of opportunities to push their agendas and buy favor with spending bills sold as emergency measures.
Of the $1.9 trillion “relief” bill signed by President Joe Biden last month, “[o]nly about 1 percent of the entire package goes toward COVID vaccines, and 5 percent is truly focused on public health needs surrounding the pandemic,” commented Maya MacGuineas, president of the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “Meanwhile, nearly half of the package will be spent on poorly targeted rebate checks and state and local government aid, including to households and governments that have experienced little or no financial loss during this crisis.”
The $2 trillion “infrastructure” plan unveiled last week by the White House actually places (probably unnecessary) repairs to roads, bridges, and water systems as secondary concerns, after a plan to “reimagine and rebuild a new economy” along green-ish lines favored by the president and his allies. A big part of that scheme is a very un-infrastructure-ish emphasis on subsidizing electric vehicles. The bill also pushes old-school labor unions.
“The focus on jobs, and particularly unionized American jobs, means that Biden’s $2 trillion spending plan will buy a lot less infrastructure than it otherwise could,” observed Reason‘s Christian Britschgi.
Federal spending last year, before the current administration’s massive spending bills, consumed 31 percent of GDP—a level not seen since the 1940s. The last time the U.S. government was this big it fielded armies against Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and imperial Japan.