In a poll conducted a few days ago by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, a record 57 percent of Americans responded that they want more government in their lives, and that the government should be doing more to solve people’s problems.
That’s the highest percentage since they started asking this question in 1995.
In fact, 57 percent is nearly double what people responded in the mid-’90s.
Furthermore, the number of Americans who feel the opposite – i.e. responded that the government is doing too many things that should be left to private businesses and individuals – fell to a near-record-low 39 percent.
Bottom line: People want more government.
It’s hard to even know where to begin with this.
First: More government is nearly an impossibility.
As I’ve written several times in the past, the U.S. federal government already spends almost all of its tax revenue on mandatory entitlements such as Social Security, along with interest on the debt.
They could literally cut nearly everything we think of as government – national parks, Homeland Security, even the IRS – and still not make a dent in paying down the national debt.
According to the U.S. government’s own financial statements, its net operating loss in 2016 was an unbelievable $1.05 trillion.
Think about that: It lost more than a trillion dollars in a completely unremarkable year.
It wasn’t waging world war, funding a major infrastructure project, or dealing with an economic crisis.
It was just business as usual. And it still lost more than a trillion dollars.
More government is going to cost even more money that the government doesn’t have ... which means even more debt and even more pain in the future.
The usual refrain is to pay for more government programs by raising taxes on the rich, or big corporations, or whoever the evil villain du jour is.
Anyone who thinks this actually works needs to study history.
Simply put, raising taxes does not raise tax revenue.
I wish every Bernie Sanders voter could understand this very simple fact:
Since the end of World War II, U.S. federal-government tax revenue as a percentage of GDP has been nearly constant at 17 percent.
In other words, while the actual dollar amount of tax revenue goes up every year due to inflation and economic expansion, the government’s slice of the total economic pie is 17 percent.
Yet during the previous eight decades, actual tax rates have been all over the board; sometimes rates were higher, and sometimes rates were lower.
Back in 1963, for example, the highest marginal tax rate on individuals exceeded 90 percent.
I’m sure there are plenty of Americans who would love to see the wealthiest citizens paying 90 percent again.
Yet in 1963, even with rates that high, the total amount of tax revenue that the U.S. government collected was 16.7 percent of GDP.
In 1988, when the highest tax rate was slashed to 28 percent under Ronald Reagan, total tax revenue was 17.3 percent of GDP.
It doesn’t matter if tax rates were high or low; the actual tax revenue that the government collects stays constant at around 17 percent of GDP.
This raises a point that these socialists never seem to understand:
If the government’s slice of the pie never seems to change no matter how high or how low tax rates are, shouldn’t they focus on making the pie bigger?
And it seems intuitive that higher taxes obstruct economic growth (i.e., make the pie smaller) because there’s less money in people’s pockets to spend and invest.
Then, of course, we have to touch on the issue of competence.
It’s absurd to want a government that has a nearly interminable track record of overreach, waste, and failure to be even more involved in people’s lives.
We’re talking about the same institution that wastes taxpayer money to study monkeys on treadmills ... and spent $1 billion to destroy $16 billion worth of perfectly good ammunition ... and $2 billion to build a Web site.
It’s extraordinary that these people are already in charge of educating our children and regulating our savings and now our health insurance.
It’s even more appalling that, given such dismal performance, people want more.
The classic definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
A final point I’ll mention is that it’s concerning to see people in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave expect the government to solve their problems.
What ever happened to self-reliance? The pioneering spirit? Good ol’ American can-do ingenuity?
In truth there are countless ways for a motivated person to solve problems. Or at least to make forward progress.
For example, to all these kids that have their hands out demanding free university education, I always ask the same questions: How many books did you read in the past 12 months? How many free online courses from Harvard and MIT did you take? Are you actually doing anything to help yourself? Or are you just whining on social media about how no one is giving you anything for free?
America was founded as a place where people take responsibility for themselves. But this now seems to be an outdated, minority view.
The Land of the Free is truly becoming the Land of Getting Free Stuff.