Happy New Year? Fiscal Cliff, Meet The Costberg

Happy New Year? Fiscal Cliff, Meet The Costberg

December 31, 2012
Originally published in Forbes

How the largest government on earth plans to expand our liberties in the new year of 2013 by forcing “the rich” to pay somebody’s idea of their “fair share” or “a little bit more” remains unclear.

Just kidding, safeguarding liberty hasn’t been a federal priority for decades.

America is belly-flopping upon impact no matter what happens fiscal-cliff-wise this week. It is fixable, though, in what we all want to be a Happy New Year.

Numerous self-inflicted crises loom, but cliff-jumping as the clock strikes midnight January 1 2013 is not one of them. That’s because a patch rather than an actual fix administered before or soon after January 1 will postpone reality a bit longer.

It’s also because, as Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) more fundamentally put it, “[W]e already went over a cliff economically in this country a long time ago.”

We achieved this feat by replacing classical liberal statesmanship with a Vote-Yourself-Entitlements-Funded-By-Others culture. This includes corporate welfare and cronyism, not merely traditional “welfare.” We now imitate the suicidal nations from which we self reliant immigrants fled, once upon a time, to create an America.

Note the gravity of our post-cliff predicament: (1) the stock market reels at the mere prospect of sequestration of a tiny fraction of the across-the-board spending cuts needed to keep America governable; and (2) the economy, all sides seem to think, will tumble into recession if people actually pay for the colossal government they’ve already voted for, let alone the entitlements-in-waiting.

I won’t echo disingenuous slurs about the rich “asked” to “pay a bit more” to rectify a situation that shouldn’t exist in the first place.

No, I’m talking about instead about nearly everybody riding in the wagon in some respect, and our facing economic turmoil whether or not they get out and pull.

This is known as getting the government you deserve, good and hard, as they say. Some of the population saw the welfare state as unjustified, indefensible and wrong in the first place, yet we all must suffer now for its expansion.

Fixing the situation requires not binding future generations to today’s wealth transfer schemes. It means being “pro-choice” on the greatest question of our time, that of statism versus liberty.

America’s national government long ago abandoned its constitutional function of preventing factional chaos. Politicians increasingly win by enabling citizens to profit by becoming more parasitic; they sneer at wealth and private property and exploit democracy’s ugly tendencies toward manipulation and society-wrecking wealth transfers.

People who pay no taxes vote on how much taxes others will pay.

It gets worse.

A fiscal cliff “deal,” so called, also can’t help a country that also faces a regulatory “costberg.” The year 2012 just concluded with a 76,875 page Federal Register containing 3,706 rules. Up ahead, a torrent of new ones on finance, healthcare, energy and the environment.

A broad survey of regulations finds compliance costs and economic impacts are quite high to say the least. From mostly governmental documents, I’ve been able to assemble:

Annual Economic Regulation Costs: $373 Billion

Annual Executive Agency Social Regulation Costs: $441 Billion

Independent Agencies’ Annual Regulatory Costs $4.58 billion

Certain Paperwork and Information Collection Costs $26 billion

Tax Compliance Costs: $299.8 Billion

These add up to $1.14 trillion annually.

Additional executive and independent agency regulatory costs compiled from governmental and some private sources–such as for health services ($184 billion), telecommunications ($141 billion) and homeland security ($55 billion)–bring the total placeholder estimate to $1.8 trillion. These costs are entirely off-budget, not part of the $3.5 trillion annual budgetary chasm within which the fiscal cliff sits, barely perciptible.

Recovery requires entitlement spending restraint, which, deal or no deal, we aren’t getting now or in the foreseeable future. It requires reflection on what government force is, when force crosses the line into illegitimacy before deteriorating into decadence.

One might have hoped the sequestration of the Budget Control Act’s year-end across the board Pain Train would have compelled realignment and awakening, but now we see even that’s not enough.

So the daily conversation in the New Year should be about how unrestrained “democratic” force destabilizes society and economic growth when officialdom regards everybody’s hand inserted into somebody else’s pocket as civic virtue–and takes credit for it as an achievement besides.

Recovery also requires dealing with laws and regulations gone wild by enacting economic and regulatory liberalization.

Government’s primary role is maintaining order and thwarting the abuse of power by some to control and manipulate others. That has to be true, because otherwise, we don’t need government to assure disorder and theft. We get those in a state of nature.

The essential feature of economic well-being and national permanence will be low tolerance for special-interest pleadings that transfer resources by talking about the duty of “the rich” to pay “fair shares” (of—what, exactly?).

A tolerant society is one of the greatest virtues of liberalism. But the rejection of big government and living accordingly remains intolerated, one might say.

Citizens’ right to refuse to participate in federal top down tax and regulatory schemes that unfairly bind future generations to an ever-growing state without consent–these are guideposts to prosperity in the new year.

Allow the freedom to choose limited government, and you avoid future cliffs.