By John F. Di Leo -
Ever since the Depression-era enlargement of the Leviathan, successfully marketed as the "New Deal," conservatives have argued against proposed government programs by shouting “They’re Unconstitutional!” and “They Don’t Work!”
Such complaints often fall on deaf ears, because the Constitution is barely taught or respected nowadays, and the question of whether they work or not so often appears to be subjective.
Perhaps it’s time for a new approach. I would submit that it’s time to stop saying that "Big Government Programs Don't Work".... because the fact is, they usually do.
Let’s consider just five different examples of Big Government programs, and compare the purported beneficiaries with the real beneficiaries of the largesse of a government project.
Public housing, as an improvement over the private tenements that preceded it, is an utter failure. Hard-working poor folks used to climb out of their private tenements as quickly as possible; the desire to escape spurred them to greater industry so they could afford better homes.
Public housing, however, has built-in penalties for hard work and success – earn too much money, and you lose the subsidy – so people get locked into public housing for generations. The nation is full of neighborhoods in which poverty is passed on from parent to child like an inheritance, all thanks to the handcuffs of the public housing programs of the New Deal and – especially – LBJ’s Great Society.
Viewed from this perspective, the concept is an absolute failure, so why doesn’t the American Left learn their lesson and join in reforming it? Because it does succeed at their real goal:
Public Housing works perfectly: at locking millions of people into miserable subsistence living, so that they'll become dependent on the free rent provided by their "saviors" in the Democratic party. What the objective onlooker sees as a negative is in fact a glowing positive for the racists of the Democratic party. These advocates of zero-sum theory maintain that the poor residents of most public housing could never climb out on their own, so if it weren’t for these miserable government egg-crates, they’d be homeless and starving on the streets.
The poor residents get nothing out of this deal but misery, living in rat-infested hellholes, surrounded by crime gangs and nihilism. But the Democratic party gets a voting base ignorantly grateful for their lot, and massive funds to dispense as well. Every housing authority hires architects, contractors, plumbers, carpenters, drywallers, painters, elevator repairmen… all of whom owe their livelihoods to the government, instead of to the private sector as they ought.
Oh yes, public housing works just fine. Just not for you and me.
The Affordable Care Act
Obamacare was sold as a compassionate way to affordably provide healthcare for 40 million more people. Each American was promised a new doctor if he didn’t have one, and he could keep the one he had if he wanted to. We were all told it would give us better care for $2500 less per year. Every promise has been proven to be a lie, as hospitals and clinics have closed, healthcare professionals have fled the business, insurance agents have been driven out of the marketplace, and costs have skyrocketed.
But the Democrats stand by the program. For Heaven’s sakes, WHY?
Because in truth the Affordable Care Act was never about cutting costs – it was about shifting them. It was never about having enough healthcare providers – it was about unionizing or otherwise controlling the ones who remain. It was never about curing as many people as possible – it was about forcing the politicization of American healthcare.
No more would tests, or treatment regimens, or abortion, or euthanasia, or birth control, or sex changes, be “a choice between the patient and her doctor,” as the Left had claimed to be their goal. No, in their eyes, these choices should be made by government. Control the payment, and you control the service that gets selected.
Obamacare therefore works perfectly for its unstated but actual goals: the forced unionization of millions of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers, a massive transfer of money from the private sector to the public sector, the destruction of full time jobs and creation of broad dependence through part time employment, the whittling away of the insurance industry (a largely entrepreneurial industry), and creating an opening in the public discourse for such concepts as mercy killings of the weak, old, and infirm.
This is what today’s Democratic party really values.
Oh, affirmative action looks like a failure, doesn’t it? In over 40 years of trial, the concept gets it wrong far more often than it gets it right. Courageous leaders like Ward Connerly and Justice Clarence Thomas have eloquently shown how affirmative action drives students away from colleges, programs and jobs at which they would excel, in favor of colleges, programs and jobs at which they would be bound to fail. Affirmative action has caused the lowering of expectations in so many roles; it has exacerbated interracial jealousy and hostility at exactly the time when Civil Rights advances should have been eliminating such unfair biases.
But in the eyes of modern Democrat, affirmative action is a success. The establishment of such quotas makes the recipients dependent on the agencies that administer them; that’s hiring of good liberals and millions of dollars in government funds to distribute. They’re not interested in the individual beneficiary or casualty of the affirmative action choice; they’re interested in the number-cruncher who does the counting, the bureaucrat who writes the grants, the EEO lawyers who threaten to sue when violations are found. THESE are their people, and they do just fine.
Affirmative action is particularly pernicious – in many ways worse than any other program – because of its particularly pernicious result of putting a cloud over everyone of a certain race or ethnicity, so that the deserving are automatically suspected of being undeserving. Read Justice Thomas’ powerful memoir, My Grandfather’s Son, in which he demonstrates how potential employers and colleagues see black skin and an Ivy League degree, and immediately assume incompetence. To be promoted beyond one’s ability is unfair; to be unfairly presumed to have been is criminal.
Food stamps (EBT cards, whatever you want to call them) work perfectly to remove the thoughtfulness that ought to be part of grocery shopping. With one’s own money, one looks for the most bang for the buck where nutrition is concerned. We think of practicality, the food pyramid, our family’s genuine needs.
But if a government card comes in the mail, food just becomes a free gift, like any other free gift… and nobody associates practicality with free gifts. Food stamps therefore keep the poor malnourished, and often, toothless and fat as well.
Knowing how food stamps are misused – on empty calories, on alcohol, on fat and sugar – one would expect the party of compassion to be the first to call for reforms… but the Democrats have increased the distribution of various types of food aid by some 40 million people during the Obama administration alone. Why?
Dependence. There is nothing the modern Democratic party adores more than dependence – keeping the worker dependent on his shop steward, keeping the resident dependent on the housing authority, keeping the patient dependent on the government’s Medicaid card… and keeping as many people as possible dependent on government for their food.
If Republicans say that we should reduce food stamp dependence, the Democrats can shout that the Right wants people to starve. If the Right says “No, people would do better earning their own meals,” the Left says “With what jobs?” (as they continue to ensure there are as few jobs as possible). The EBT card is a tactic for the modern Left; it makes people dependent on government for their very sustenance. Our Founding Fathers – well aware of the dictatorship that rose from caesars who distributed bread to the public – would be horrified.
One other particularly pernicious effect of food stamps is that they make grocery stores and minimarts – who ought to be completely independent of government – very dependent indeed, often for a large portion of their revenue.
What is the favored cliché for the modern Democrat, whether speaking of the shopkeeper or of the customer and his food stamps? Take the king's coin, dance to the king's tune.
And nowhere is this more evident than the world of higher education. Whether we speak of public universities or private ones, it is public funding of colleges and universities, through research grants, guaranteed student loans, and state and especially federal student financial aid programs, that has caused the skyrocketing price of tuition in our lifetimes.
Two generations ago, almost everyone could work their way through college, if they were willing, even if their parents couldn't afford it. Colleges charged what the market would bear.
Today, since the federal government ensures that most students can get either enough grant aid or guaranteed loans to afford some college (though often not the right one for them, individually), the colleges know they can fill every seat, no matter what they charge. They can therefore set tuition as high as they want... when the market is a compassionate government, the market will bear any price they set.
This bankrupts a certain subgroup of parents (mostly the upper middle class who can't afford insane prices but don't qualify for the really generous aid), and it sets kids on the road to bankruptcy or default by causing massive and unaffordable debt loads by graduation.
Any rational viewer would say this is a failure. If we ended the subsidies completely and eliminated the concept of unsecured student loans, tuition prices would plummet to a rational level. But the modern Left isn’t interested in affordable tuition; that’s not really their goal at all.
Public funding of colleges succeeds in its REAL goal: it’s a massive reward for the generally left-wing education sector for being good soldiers in the progressive cause, turning the children of conservatives into Democrats, generation after generation. Public funding of colleges encourages and enables their continued indoctrination of America's youth, and… worst of all… it gets middle class teenagers - who normally would never receive government aid - accustomed to dependence on a government program. Just like the denizens of public housing. Just like the recipients of food stamps. Just like the connected contractors vying for government grants with the agency commissar.
Once you've accepted one government program, they reason, you'll be willing to go along with more of them.
See how even the most repulsive government programs work, for the unstated goals that the Left never really wanted to be revealed?
We could continue, of course. A thorough analysis of this subject could last thousands of pages and cover hundreds of projects, but this should be sufficient to make the point. Government programs DO work, but very rarely for the stated purposes on which they were sold to the voters.
There is a reason our Founding Fathers wanted a small government. Even when our government was at its smallest, it was clear to see that
- If a Secretary of State could justify a translator’s job so that a single crony could do political activism on the government’s dime, the same thing could occur by the hundreds or thousands.
- If a single Treasury employee could use insider information to speculate on his own behalf (to the detriment of the public), imagine what a huge department of such employees could do.
- If a single military buyer, responsible for negotiating contracts for uniforms and munitions, could skim a little off the top, imagine the danger of an enormous leviathan, employing hundreds of such buyers to make thousands of such purchases.
The Founders knew human nature, and they acknowledged reality. We need to return to those days of realism, and cut back the massive government projects that exist more and more to build dependence, to fleece the public, to enrich the connected at the expense of the unconnected.
We need to fire the Democratic party and terminate their deceptive and destructive programs. We need to dust off the Constitution, and start limiting the size and scope of our government again!
Copyright 2014 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based international trade compliance trainer, actor, and writer. A former County Chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party, he has been a recovering politician for over seventeen years now (but, like any addiction, you’re never really cured).
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