Big Brother, can you spare a dime?

Editor's 2 Cents

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They say you can’t put the genie back in the bottle, and the same goes for presidents. The voters summoned President Obama into existence with their chant of “Hope and Change” and now he is poised to grant three wishes held dear by liberals:

Unlimited health care for all American citizens ...

Unlimited citizenship for all American residents ...

And unlimited government for all time ...

Of course, long before President Obama was elected, the trend has been in place for Americans to surrender more and more of their sovereignty to big government. You could make the case that’s it’s been going on for almost 100 years, since at least the election of Woodrow Wilson, but no one can deny that President Obama is the apotheosis of the liberal ideal of using the government as an agent of social justice.

Of course, we were warned by Sarah Palin and other conservatives about the danger of a well-spoken politician who only wanted to help us help ourselves:

“Unfortunately, he is a powerful speaker with an appeal to the emotions. He leaves little doubt that his idea of the ‘challenging new world’ is one in which the Federal Government will grow bigger and do more and of course spend more.... One last thought — shouldn’t someone tag [his] bold new imaginative program with its proper age? Under the tousled boyish haircut is still old Karl Marx — first launched a century ago. There is nothing new in the idea of a Government being Big Brother to us all. Hitler called his ‘State Socialism’ and way before him it was ‘benevolent monarchy.’”

Of course, this particular quote is not from Sarah Palin, and it’s not about Barack Obama. The giveaway line is the “tousled boyish haircut.” This was Ronald Reagan’s assessment of John F. Kennedy before he was elected in 1960. And though we all have a respectful view of President Kennedy today because of his martyrdom, there can be no doubt that he promoted government solutions to human problems despite his inaugural challenge to “ask not what your country can do for you.”

The fact of the matter is that President Kennedy, like Obama, represented a liberal tradition that sees government as the agent of “hope and change,” and yet the more the government has hoped to help us in the past 50 years, the less change we have had in our pockets.

Look at the numbers. The year when President Kennedy was elected, the total spending of the federal government was about $97 billion. By the time he was assassinated three years later, that was up to $111 billion. By the time his successor and vice president, Lyndon Johnson, left office in 1969, federal spending had increased to $184 billion.

But that was chicken feed. Federal spending today is at an amazing $4,000 billion, a forty-fold increase in just 50 years. That’s FOUR TRILLION DOLLARS, folks. And if you think inflation of the dollar can account for that 4,000 percent increase in spending, think again. Inflation would only account for spending of about $750 billion in today’s dollars. The other $3.15 trillion or so is accounted for by NEW SPENDING!

And it could have been worse.

I recently ran across a lecture by M. Stanton Evans published in the August 1976 edition of Imprimis magazine, and thought it was ironic that the scary and very costly liberal proposal being debated by the Democratic Congress then was “the National Health Insurance Plan of Sen. Kennedy.”

This, of course, was Sen. Edward Kennedy, who had taken up the mantle of his slain brothers and was working hard to bring universal health care into existence long before Barack Obama or even Hillary Clinton were on the public stage. And ultimately, it is still his health insurance plan we are debating today, although Harry Reid’s name is now attached to it because of the recent death of Sen. Kennedy.

So why is nationalized health care so scary? Despite the rhetoric from the left, it is not because conservatives are mean-hearted evil trolls who live under bridges and use their clubs to squash the hopes and dreams of the poor and disabled.

No, it was scary then for the same reason it is scary now... Not because it is “health care” but because it is “nationalized.” Evans demonstrated in his 1976 lecture that government spending on social problems does not make them go away; it just institutionalizes them. In fact, it ensures that the problems will never go away because the problems become a magnet for federal dollars, and thus there is an incentive for the problems to grow rather than shrink. As President Reagan said when he was inaugurated in 1981, “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

The evidence is clear that Reagan was right.

Evans noted that in the four decades preceding his 1976 lecture, “we have seen a dramatic growth in the scope of government power in the United States... As a result, we have established on the banks of the Potomac precisely the kind of unchecked, untethered monolithic power structure that our founding fathers wanted to avoid.”

But remember, that was 1976 — when federal spending was just one-tenth of what it is now! If the leviathan that is beached on the banks of the Potomac these days does not now qualify for the title Big Brother, then no government ever will.

Evans noted in his lecture that some people might doubt that the growth of government was a problem, since our economy has also grown. So he compared government spending to the gross national product, and found that while total government spending had accounted for only 10 percent of the total domestic economy in 1929, it was up to 37 percent by 1976.

Today it is up to 46 percent, and that percentage would greatly increase if the Democratic Congress gets its way and adds new burdens to the economy in the form of “health-care reform” and “cap-and-tax” energy policies, or by tremendously increasing the obligations of the federal government by granting citizenship to up to 20 million illegal aliens.

And remember, the current Democratic proposals will quickly result in a scenario where more than HALF of all the wealth produced in the United States is diverted to government! It almost looks like the United States already has in place what Ronald Reagan warned against in 1960: “State Socialism.”

To paraphrase President Kennedy, “Ask not what your government can do for you; ask how YOU can get back some of your money from the government.”

Or put another way: “Big Brother, can you spare a dime?”

n Frank Miele is managing editor of the Daily Inter Lake and writes a weekly column. E-mail responses may be sent to

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