Wednesday, January 18, 2006

I Got Yer Reform...

Stephen Moore of Club for Growth supports John Shadegg to replace Tom Delay in the Republican leadership. (HT: Professor Bainbridge)

"We're going to find out whether Republicans have an appetite for a substantial reform agenda against pork spending, out-of-control budgets and deal-making politics as usual in this town." Those were the words that conservative Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona used when he announced his 11th-hour candidacy for the House Republican leader's slot vacated by Tom DeLay.
After decades of listening to politicians, I have come to regard the word “reform” as an empty generality like “motherhood” or “the environment.” Ross Perot’s Reform Party stood for nothing except that they weren’t Democrats or Republicans. That’s probably why Perot got 19% of the vote in 1992; had he actually taken a stand on any issue he would have gotten less of the vote.

McCain likes the reform banner. With him it means more government and less freedom.

Wasn’t Al Gore supposed to reform government when he was Vice President? That’s a sure sign that Gore had no actual function in the Clinton Administration. Being tasked to “reinvent government” is the domestic equivalent of being sent to funerals in Africa. What contempt Clinton must have had for Gore to put him in charge of reform!

Those who tout reform accept the premise of big government, they just want it done more efficiently. In the long run, reform never changes anything. At best it might make some marginal changes for awhile.

We need radical change, not reform. For instance, why does the Department of Agriculture exist? The annual budget is $19.1 billion and it has never grown an ear of corn. I remember an anecdote back in the ‘80s, I don’t know if it’s true or not, in which a Department of Agriculture bureaucrat was asked why he looked so sad as he sat at his desk doing nothing. “My farmer died,” he said. We could eliminate the whole department tomorrow and the only people to notice would be the bureaucrats who lost their jobs. The rest of us would only notice that our food got better and cheaper as the free market made agriculture more competitive.

How about the Department of Education? That’s an annual budget of $71.5 billion! We didn’t even have this department until Carter. Are we getting more education now?

Then there’s another Carter creation, the Department of Energy, with a budget of $24.3 billion.

That’s just the beginning of what must go. We could probably cut over $2 trillion before we got to a function that government should be doing, such as justice or defense. If we did that, our standard of living would soar through the clouds.

UPDATE: Amusing typo fixed. The budget of the Department of Energy is not $24.3, but $24.3 billion.


Kyle Bennett said...

the Department of Energy, with a budget of $24.3.

Oh, how I wish that were true...

Myrhaf said...

Funny typo -- I'll fix it. Thanks.