One of the myths about the United States government since Reagan was elected in 1980 is that government became smaller. Reagan was able to reduce the tax burden to encourage investment, but he didn’t reduce spending. As Greg Mankiw points out the federal outlays as a percentage of GDP have remained relatively the same the past fifty years.
Over the last century, the largest increase in the size of the government occurred during the Great Depression and World War II. Even after these crises were over, they left a legacy of higher spending and taxes. To this day, we have yet to come to grips with how to pay for all that the government created during that era — a problem that will become acute as more baby boomers retire and start collecting the benefits promised.
What Reagan accomplished during his first term was explaining to the American people that government was not the solution to combat a terrible economic crisis. The economy was in much worse shape in the early 80’s when Reagan became president than it is today. He certainly didn’t call call for the kind of spending Obama and Bush have been asking for the past six months.
Conservatives have never had enough votes to curtail federal spending. Once the government starts spending money it never gives up control. For the past fifty years most Americans have been apathetic. Since the New Deal the nation has been squandering the inheritance of future generations. The reality is the nation cannot afford the programs initiated during the Great Depression for more than seventy years. The Great Society tacked on a few more unsustainable programs. President Bush’s prescription drug plan was another government giveaway that is unfeasible in the long-run. After 9/11 instead waiting to find out what the recommendations of the 9/11 commission the Congress created the Homeland Security Department. If we learned anything during that attack it was that the CIA and FBI didn’t communicate. I can’t see how having three agencies is going to make that better.
It seems that liberals don’t care how much the nation spends and moderates aren’t concerned enough to take a stand. It doesn’t matter how much taxes are raised or how many speeches the president makes, the nation is headed towards bankruptcy unless their’s a significant change in our spending priorities. Higher taxes will only damage the economy. It’s time for the government to cut back.