Wednesday, March 06, 2013

"Will Obama turn the United States into the world's largest banana republic?"

The always brilliant Thomas Sowell
Back in my teaching days, many years ago, one of the things I liked to ask the class to consider was this: Imagine a government agency with only two tasks: (1) building statues of Benedict Arnold and (2) providing life-saving medications to children. If this agency's budget were cut, what would it do?

The answer, of course, is that it would cut back on the medications for children. Why? Because that would be what was most likely to get the budget cuts restored. If they cut back on building statues of Benedict Arnold, people might ask why they were building statues of Benedict Arnold in the first place.

The example was deliberately extreme as an illustration. But, in the real world, the same general pattern can be seen in local, state and national government responses to budget cuts.
Skeptical? Don't be. For just one tiny example, see this from the WSJ:
In its bid to make the sequester as painful as possible, the White House announced Tuesday that it is canceling all visitor tours of the White House "during the popular Spring touring season." This fits President Obama's political strategy to punish the eighth graders visiting from Illinois instead of, say, the employees of the Agriculture Department who will attend a California conference sipping "exceptional local wines" and sampling "tasty dishes" prepared by "special guest chefs."

Yes, even as the White House warns that the modest automatic spending cuts will force the furlough of meat inspectors, two divisions of the Agriculture Department will underwrite the 26th California Small Farm Conference in Fresno next week.
And check out hashtag #sequesterthis on twitter.

None of this is the least surprising, of course.  When given the choice between cutting back essentials or frills, a normal person cuts back on the frills.  But a government will always cut back on the essentials.  Cutting back on the frills reduces its power, while cutting back on essentials increases it, by blackmailing the citizenry into increasing the budget.

And power is the one thing that is not partisan - everyone in government is there because it gives them power. They might deny that construction, but even when couched in the best possible terms - "I want to make the world a better place/help the children/bring about world peace/end discrimination" - it all boils down to power. Want to make the world a better place? Government gives you the power to do that. Want to "help the children"? Government gives you the power to do that. Government is power. The bigger the government, the broader its scope, the more intrusive it is, the more power its functionaries wield. And, having achieved power, those in power will do whatever they can to preserve that power.

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