Why do liberals have such unfounded faith in government?

The government’s track record over the last fifty years isn’t exactly exemplary and yet Democrats demand more power at every turn

The one thing that unites almost all liberal policy proposals is a belief that the Federal Government can and should do more.  From the Green New Deal to Medicare-for-All, the government’s sphere would be greatly increased, taking on new responsibilities, managing entire markets, and making more and more decisions previously left to the free market or the state and local governments.

The motivation behind these policies and others is readily understandable, but why anyone would believe the Federal Government is competent enough to deliver remains a mystery.  After all, this is a government that has failed at almost every turn over the past 50 years or more, even across many of the issues Democrats are still focusing on today.

The War on Poverty began in 1964 when President Lyndon B. Johnson proposed legislation to address a national poverty rate of around 19 percent.  In response, Congress passed the Equal Opportunity Act and established the Office of Economic Opportunity.  The act included forty wide ranging programs aimed at eradicating poverty and improving the lives of the poor.

Over the next 50 years, the United States spent a whopping $22 trillion dollars in an effort to win this war.  According to the Heritage Foundation, even as early as 2014, that sum is more than the total spent on all actual wars since the Revolution.  Although the poverty rate itself has been practically cut in half, down to 10.5 percent as of 2019, no one I know on either side of the aisle is ready to declare victory.

Instead, the demand is for more money and more programs.

Likewise, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964.  The new law prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.  The law included twelve separate focus areas, known as Titles.  Voting rights, public accommodations, desegregation of public facilities and education, a Commision on Civil Rights, non-discrimination in federally assisted programs, equal employment opportunity, registration and voting statistics, interventions, community relations, and other miscellaneous causes.

Over 50 years later, liberals believe systematic, structural racism remains an urgent concern, so urgent in fact that the issue trumps public health restrictions in the middle of a pandemic.

Similarly, President Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970.  The agency’s mission was supported by a sweeping Clean Air Act, also in 1970, and a Clean Water Act in 1972.  Fast forward, and the climate crisis is considered an existential threat to humankind’s very existence on this Earth in liberal circles complete with a doomsday clock.

Neither have trade or economic policy been exactly stellar during this period.  On that front, we’ve performed so badly that even Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump agree we suck.

Here’s Bernie on the Transpacific Partnership, hotly debated in the latter years of the Obama Administration.  “Bad trade deals like the proposed Transpacific Partnership are a major reason for the collapse of the American middle class and the increase in wealth and income inequality in the United States…Trade agreements should not just work for corporate America, Wall Street and the pharmaceutical industry. They have got to benefit the working families of our country. We must defeat fast track and develop a new policy on trade.”

Trump was typically more blunt on David Letterman way back in 1998. “If you look at what certain countries are doing to this country, such as Japan. I mean, they’ve totally taken advantage of the country. … I’m talking about the [trade] deficits. They come and they talk about free trade. They dump the cars and the VCRs and everything else.”

Nor has the Federal Government fared much better in foreign policy overall.  No matter the region of the world, the hot spots and crisis zones today are almost the same as decades ago.

President Truman ended the Korean War with an armistice in 1953, but North Korea remains a rogue nation and a potential nuclear threat.  The war in fact isn’t even officially over.  President Nixon went to China in 1972, but China still remains our foremost geopolitical adversary. The Soviet Union crumbled in the late 1980s, but Russia is as antagonistic as ever.

Since 9-11, the War on Terror has been the primary focus of our foreign policy.  While we’ve made great strides preventing potential attacks and breaking up terror cells, our efforts overseas haven’t been successful.

We’ve been in Afghanistan for almost twenty years and have failed to secure anything resembling victory.  We’re coming home now with the same Taliban that gave Al Queda safe haven still in charge.  Iraq has fared slightly better, though none of the promised Weapons of Mass Destruction have ever been found.  The region itself remains rife with turmoil and instability, Libya is no longer a functioning country, Syria has been engulfed in Civil War, proxy battles continue in Yemen.

One of key players in these proxy wars is Iran.  They’ve been a terror sponsoring state since the Shah was deposed in 1979, and are now closer to a nuclear bomb than ever before.

The Federal Government has also  repeatedly lied to itself and the American people about the Middle East, offering a combination of wishful thinking and outright falsehoods.

The Washington Post published the Afghanistan Papers on December 9, 2019 and the results weren’t pretty.  A sad story of waste, fraud, abuse, questionable judgement, “second guessing and back-biting among US government officials,” leading to approximately 40% of US aid to Afghanistan lining the pockets of corrupt officials, warlords, criminals, and insurgents.  

War isn’t the only thing the Federal Government lies about either.

Officials even lie about spying on their own citizens.  During a hearing in March 2013, James Clapper, then Director of National Intelligence, was asked by Democrat Senator Ron Widen if the NSA collects “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.”

“No sir,” Mr. Clapper answered. “Not wittingly.”

Three months later, Edward Snowden blew the lid off the NSA spying program, which was collecting the metadata for every single cellular phone call in the United States quite wittingly.  In response to the revelations, Clapper continued in his post until the end of the Obama Administration and lied again to CNN, “I didn’t lie, I made a big mistake, and I just simply didn’t understand what I was being asked about.”

I just simply didn’t understand what I was being asked about.  That might serve as an excellent description of the past 50 years of government, which brings us back to our original question.

After the 2008 election, then President-elect Obama famously declared:

“In these challenging times, when we are facing both rising deficits and a sinking economy, budget reform is not an option. It is an imperative. We cannot sustain a system that bleeds billions of taxpayer dollars on programs that have outlived their usefulness, or exist solely because of the power of a politicians, lobbyists, or interest groups. We simply cannot afford it. This isn’t about big government or small government. It’s about building a smarter government that focuses on what works. That is why I will ask my new team to think anew and act anew to meet our new challenges….We will go through our federal budget—page by page, line by line—eliminating those programs we don’t need, and insisting that those we do operate in a sensible cost-effective way.”

I don’t think anyone in either party believes this actually happened.  The Federal budget in 2009 was $3.107 trillion.  The budget in 2019 was $4.407 trillion, a 41.8% increase in ten years, and yet the left (and even some on the right) demand that we doubledown on this 50 year record of failed results.

Why would anyone believe the next 50 years are going to be any better?

My recommendation to liberals:  Demand that the government get its house in order and deliver on its promises before asking for more.


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