"Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys." — P.J. O'Rourke
I promised last week (The Rant, October 18th issue) to propose a solution for the competing desires of the liberal Vermont Republic and conservative League of the South to secede from the union. So here are my ideas for what we really can do to make this work:
First, let's face it. We live in a divided country. Every recent national election has been close to 50-50 splits, and we are also split on how we want to run the ever-expanding federal government. As European countries such as Great Britain and France become more conservative and pro-capitalist, we in the U.S. seem poised to elect Hillary Clinton and the Democrats, who want to expand the powers of Washington into healthcare and beyond. It will not work.
I held out hope in 1994, when the Republicans swept into a majority in Congress. They did force a few good things, such as welfare reform and lower taxes. But over time the Republicans preferred power over principle, and they have been a bitter disappointment.
The federal government provides us with one important service, which is national defense. Lately, to let us know how important they are, the feds have been using our military in wars of choice that never seem to turn out well. In fact, it is no longer "defense;" rather, they seem to take pleasure in deploying our troops for offense — while confiscating 38 percent of our incomes in taxes to do so. Congress also run up trillions in deficits because they have no collective sense.
On the other hand, our state and local governments take much less of our income, and they balance their budgets, because they have to. They then provide us with services we actually use and count on: schools, roads, libraries, trash pickup, parks, airports, police, and fire protection. They tend to do so in a manner that suits local priorities. And if you do not like what they do, you can simply move to another state.
The federal government, on the other hand, seldom does anything that pleases locals. It is more concerned about preserving and expanding its powers. Realistically, most of us can't move to another country if we don't like what the feds do. Movie stars sometimes threaten to do it. But most don't follow through, which was a pity in the case of Barbra Streisand and Rosie O'Donnell.
So my solution to the unworkable-yet-appealing idea of secession is to grant more powers to the states and fewer to Washington, D.C. It is, after all, what our founding fathers intended in the first place. If you read the Federalist Papers, you will realize that they never intended for our national government to be expansive and overbearing. They wanted the states to be in charge. That way, if, for instance, you want an abortion on demand, then you move to a state that allows it. If you want to smoke weed, then you go to a state with liberal pot laws. If you think that we should pay for everything for people on welfare, you go to a state that provides flat-screen TVs and offers an assortment of French cheeses that are both delicious and presented in a pleasing manner.
The basic reason that we fought for our independence is so we could do what we damn well please as long as it doesn't harm others. Yet at every turn, the federal government seems to want to make us do as they think we should, whether it comes to using windmills, driving a Prius, or being forced to join the Hillary Healthcare Plan. (It's interesting to me that the Democrats, who complained loudest about the inept federal response to Katrina, are now advocating a federal takeover of healthcare.)
The U.S. government spends our money to make us increasingly dependent on the U.S. government's programs. Unfunded mandates, (which is not Larry Craig going to the bathroom without his wallet), are not good for states either. They not only waste federal money, they waste states' money, too, with legislation that forces states to implement programs without providing funding to run them.
The Republicans did it with the expensive prescription drug-benefit giveaway. When a product that the private market should sell, such as prescription drugs, is taken over by the government, the first thing — and perhaps the only thing — that the drug companies need to buy are congressmen.
Our free-spending federal government officials think they are filled with enough hubris to believe that they should even tell other countries what to do. They call it "foreign policy." The real answer to fixing foreign and domestic policy is allocating less money and power to the federal government and more to to state and local governments.
Ron Hart is a Southern libertarian who writes political satire. He lives in
Florida and is an investor. His e-mail is