Mike Klein Online

In Government We Trust?

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“Government, even in its best state, is a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.” – Original Twitter from Thomas Paine, firebrand author of the Revolutionary era pamphlet “Common Sense.”

Americans have debated the merits of government since Paine’s brilliant writing brought focus to Colonial outrage with the British Crown.   One thing we are good at is debate.   But seldom does all that debate add up to a significant examination of the relationship Americans have with our own government.   Such an opportunity might now present itself. 

Obama Fixes Health Care is the current focus of vigorous debate pitting liberals against conservatives, entitlement supporters against free market advocates, senior citizens against younger citizens and, apparently, the federal government against insurance companies.  Health care goals change hourly.  Media declares daily winners and losers.

Obama is right to address health care first because it is financially more complex than Social Security, which every Republican and Democratic administration has raided for generations.  Boomers … Americans born between 1946 and 1964 … are right to fear what government cannot explain to them.

Boomers and their parents did the work that resulted in the greatest national wealth creation in world history.   Pensions other than cushy government pensions have collapsed and retirement accounts are in ruins.  Boomers do not trust what will happen with their health care.  The key word there is trust.

Obama Fixes Health Care will require many corrections.   The process will take years.  Health care will never again be treated as an isolated policy island because while it consumes about 16 percent of the current national economy, it seems impossible that any model would put health care on a low fat diet.

Former Republican Party presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan contributed an excellent thought to the health care scrum this week.   Writing in his syndicated column, Buchanan noted 140 million Americans contribute to Medicare, which is going broke as it serves the current health care needs of 42 million Americans.  The math gets worse.

Buchanan wrote the U.S. population is expected to explode from 300 million to 435 million within forty years and more than 70 million will retire within twenty years.  More and not fewer health care dollars will be spent inside the national economy.  There is no other math outcome possible.  Medicaid current and projected obligations make the numbers even worse.

The backside of United States paper currency says “In God We Trust.”   But there is nothing about “In Government We Trust.”  In fact, Americans dating to earliest days did not trust government and even as ink was drying on the Declaration of Independence, there was no certainty that almost half the colonies would accept the document.   The idea of a single nation of states was by no means a certain thing.

None of the Founding Fathers supported powerful central government.  George Washington agreed to serve a second term as President only after he became convinced the new nation might crumble should he step aside after four years.   It was that weak.  Thomas Jefferson began westward expansion with the Louisiana Purchase but like other leaders of his time, he advocated less not more government.

At least four milestones expanded federal power.  The Civil War outcome ensured geographic and economic continuity.   Expanding the federal income tax impact on individuals in 1913 ensured the permanent sizable transfer of personal wealth from individuals to Washington.  Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society in the 1960s created unprecedented social program spending.

Nothing has significantly reduced federal power.  Ronald Reagan tried but any effect was temporary.  George W. Bush never tried; Iraq aside, that is the truest reason for his failed presidency.  Barack Obama seems determined to create the greatest expansion of federal power in at least fifty years.

Revolutionary era thinking that created this country was based on moving power away from central government and toward individuals.  Today we are moving in the opposite direction.   Health care is merely the current catalyst.  Later it will be something else.

Americans should vigorously debate what they want from health care.

More important, however, is what they want from government.

That debate would define the future of the republic.

August 22, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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