Limited government can make a comeback in pandemic times

This year’s federal deficit is expected to match the entire 1996 federal budget, adjusted for inflation. Despite such overwhelming spending, Democrats in Congress proposed an unprecedented $ 3.5 trillion budget, on top of the $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that failed in its first Senate vote this month. latest.

For supporters of limited government, it is easy to sense that the fight is over and the country is on the road to fiscal ruin. But such pessimism is unwarranted.

The debauchery political culture that has infected Washington and many state governments is not a historic endpoint. While voters tend to appreciate handouts, at least temporarily, they dislike the long-term economic consequences of overspending. Additionally, the compelling actions of governors in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis weakened voter support for unlimited executive powers and the government’s monopoly on education.

In response, policymakers, including in Pennsylvania, oppose big government in the era of the pandemic.

Consider the current economic climate. As prices – including for housing, food and fuel – skyrocket, business owners and consumers worry about inflation. President Biden responded by embarking on a futile attempt to distract from the obvious source of the problem: government spending and easy money.

At the same time, a recent New York Times poll shows that 52% to 71% of Americans support ending the extra $ 300 per week unemployment compensation paid by Washington. Even today, months after communities were fully reopened, too many Americans remain out of work as the federal government continues to subsidize unemployment. But Americans instinctively hate anti-labor policies. Now state governments are reinstating job search requirements; 26 states even rejected federal unemployment supplements.

Meanwhile, as families have endured a year of locked classrooms – particularly in public school districts – there is a resurgence of interest in educational choices. Currently, more than a dozen states have created or expanded choice education programs in the aftermath of the pandemic, and more states are poised to act soon.

Even in my home state of Pennsylvania, where Democratic Governor Tom Wolf is a favorite of teachers’ unions, legislation that increases tax credits for thousands of low-income students is now law.

The fact that states are moving quickly to adjust their education policies to support families, rather than school bureaucracies, is another encouraging shift towards limited government.

States like Pennsylvania are also pushing against the unbridled powers of governors. In the past, Republicans and Democrats criticized executive excesses when the opposing party was in power. The two sides, however, have rarely acted to restore a separation of powers. Over time, this long-standing deterioration of checks and balances has fostered greater executive control.

But that is about to change. For the first time in perhaps a century, there is a bipartisan trend of downsizing executive power as a result of governors’ abuses of “emergency” declarations since March 2020. About 45 states are considering proposals to reduce the emergency powers of their governor and restore checks and balances. Almost a dozen states have already adopted such policies.

In Ohio and Indiana, for example, the Republican legislatures overreact to a Republican governor. And in Pennsylvania, which became the first state to restrict executive power through a constitutional amendment, several Democratic lawmakers have joined the Republican legislature to take on Wolf.

After the year has passed, there is a counter-movement against government excesses. The deficit spending by Republicans and Democrats preceded the pandemic, but emerging state trends show America is not doomed to insolvency and runaway bureaucratic growth.

On the contrary, America could enter an era of healthier politics, which happened in 1994 and 2010. The Republican Revolution of 1994, which handed the hammer of the speaker to Newt Gingrich, followed the President Bill Clinton’s tax hikes. The Tea Party sweep in 2010 was the result of a backlash against the failure of President Barack Obama’s Recovery Act and Affordable Care Act.

History suggests voters will be wise and start pushing for more responsible policies. Free market advocates now have the perfect opportunity to fight back and build on recent victories. As Americans grow increasingly dissatisfied with the results of reckless big government, this momentum can usher in a new era of free markets and limited government.

Nathan Benefield is vice president and chief operating officer of the Commonwealth Foundation, Pennsylvania’s right-wing free market think tank.

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