One story after another emerges about dysfunctional federal programs plagued by waste, fraud, and abuse. The core problem is that the government has grown so large that trying to make it function with efficiency and soundness has become impossible.
House and Senate budget negotiators, led by Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray, have been meeting to find ways to trim spending and solve the federal budget mess. Many pundits are giving them low odds at agreeing to major reforms.
If we did a poll of free market economists about federal programs that are the most wasteful and ridiculous, energy subsidies would be near the top of the list. It’s not just that energy subsidies make no sense in economic theory, but also that there are so many news stories highlighting the folly that it’s hard to see why policymakers persist in wasting our money.
One of the many problems with Big Government is that it abuses our privacy. The potential for abuse has been greatly heightened in the information age. The problem is not just that government officials themselves can abuse the vast troves of data that they collect, but that thieves, hackers, organized crime, and other private actors can gain access as well.
House and Senate negotiators are working out details of a big farm bill that may pass this year. No industry in America is as coddled as farming, and no industry is as centrally planned from Washington. The federal sugar program is perhaps the most Soviet of all. Here’s a sketch of the sugar program, which the supposedly conservative, tea party-dominated lower chamber may soon ratify:
People shouldn’t be surprised about the botched roll-out of Obamacare and all the damaging effects of the law that are now generating headlines. Over the decades, federal efforts to subsidize and manipulate the economy have failed over and over again.
“The basic dilemma of the welfare state … is that the more generous the benefits, the greater will be not only the tax distortions but also, because of moral hazard and benefit cheating, the number of beneficiaries. This is a field where Say’s Law certainly holds in the long run: the supply of benefits creates its own demand…”
Thank goodness for whistleblowers in the government, whether regarding intelligence activities or the mundane bureaucratic waste that occurs in every department. Congress does a generally pathetic job of oversight and presidential administrations are rarely transparent—despite their promises. So the citizens who pay for our $3.6-trillion government rely on federal workers who witness illegal and unethical activities to come forward and inform the press.
Keynesian economics is the perpetual motion machine of the left. You build a model that assumes government spending is good for the economy and you assume that there are zero costs when the government diverts money from the private sector.
When the computer system running your signature legislative achievement is slightly less functional than painting on a cave wall, you know you have a big problem. When that’s actually the good news, you know you have a really big problem.