Is there anything the government can’t -- or shouldn’t -- do?
For the men who gathered in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 to draft our federal Constitution, the answer was clearly yes -- on both counts. Our entire system of government was built on the assumption that there are both practical and moral limits to governmental scope and authority.
To ensure that the state remained within these prescribed parameters, the Founders ingeniously divided power between federal, state and local governments; between executive, legislative and judicial branches of that government, then set them all against one another in hopes they would be too busy in snarling competition with each other to feast on the average, unsuspecting citizen.
It was a bold vision of government that recognized that both liberty and prosperity require a robust private sphere that must remain unmolested and unrestrained by federal authority.
Unfortunately, the Founders’ vision has fallen out of favor with modern liberals, for whom there is nothing beyond the power -- or the right -- of the government to accomplish.
For instance, recently two prominent liberals have made statements revealing a sweeping and frightening vision of government that is entirely at odds with the wisdom of the Founders.
On June 10, AFL-CIO Deputy Chief of Staff Thea Lee was asked on "Fox News Sunday" how state and local governments can continue to afford the generous pension and health benefits public-sector unions have long enjoyed, since these very contracts are driving the budget crises swamping governments all across the nation.
Lee said it was a “false choice” to have to decide between services for tax-payers and fat pensions for public workers. When pressed to say where the money would come from to keep unions in their cushy comfort, Lee responded, “we absolutely could raise taxes, and we ought to raise taxes.”
So in this labor leader’s estimable opinion, private-sector workers -- who make only $8.53 per hour on average in benefits -- exist merely to produce the resources required to pay for the $14.31 per hour in benefits that public workers enjoy. Thus the parasite lays absolute claim over its host.
What then happens the host usually dies, which is exactly what is happening to our private economy. Not that you would know that if you listened to President Obama, who made the other shockingly revealing statement concerning the liberal view of government. During a hastily called press conference on June 8, the president actually said with a straight face:
“The private sector is doing fine. Where we are seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local governments -- oftentimes, cuts initiated by governors or mayors who are not getting the kind of help that they have in the past from the federal government, and who don’t have the same kind of flexibility as the federal government in dealing with fewer revenues coming in.”
So in the president's view, the government isn’t big enough; does not have enough workers to do all the things it can, should, and must do.
Further, the federal government should take money from Ohioans to give to the state government of Nebraska -- so Nebraska can hire more teachers, whether or not Ohioans need their money, or whether or not Nebraska needs more teachers. And never mind that you will search the Constitution in vain for such a "jobs program" mandate in the first place.
In fact the unconstrained view of government expressed by Lee and Obama is one that necessarily leads to dependency and tyranny: It is a lust for power, not a promise of freedom. It is a prescription for poverty, not a path to prosperity.
Just ask the Greeks.
Matt Patterson is Executive Director, Center for Worker Freedom, at Americans for Tax Reform. You may contact Matt at Mpatterson@atr.org