Observing policymakers’ behavior, the only certainties regarding the next crisis to befall the Nation once the pandemic is in the rearview mirror are that Congress will spend trillions of dollars, and that the national government will vastly extend its dominion.
Successive waves of hyper-spending since early 2020, each less related to Covid than what came before, have culminated with some 2,000 pages of a “Build Back Better” social, environmental and infrastructure “framework.” The House vote on final passage was delayed owing to Democratic “moderates” awaiting a “score” from the Congressional Budget Office, but it’ll be in the multi-trillions when all is said and done.
The extraordinary expansion of the central government and embrace of intergenerational debt rather than intergenerational wealth underway will weaken the nation’s backbone, reduce resilience, and increase vulnerability to the next economic shock.
“This is going to change the lives of millions and millions of Americans,” Biden’s deputy press secretary effused to the supportive, non-watchdog White House press corp this week. That is precisely the problem.
Leveraging misfortune in a way that infantilizes the public via the enlargement of already pervasive healthy adult dependency on the central government is hardly sound policy. The seductive offloading of familial responsibilities to government by means of Newspeak redefining free pre-kindergarten, free community college and the like as “human infrastructure” are deserving of discipline, not a vote.
Any society can get blindsided by a shock. But a biological contagion ranked among the most anticipated global events imaginable, with several government warnings in recent years alone trumpeting its certainty. Covid was the third major economic shock of the 21st Century, following in the wake of 9/11 and the financial crisis. All these crises ushered in new flavors of financial and banking intervention, federal allocation of credit, and calls for investment in science and infrastructure and new bureaucratic infrastructure (like the Department of Homeland Security and a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the latter masking the culpability of government-sponsored entities in meltdown). In no instance did the country retract to prior dimensions once the crisis abated; instead we saw the addition of new spending, agencies, departments and rules. Accompanying Covid’s shortages of toilet paper, masks, ventilators and jobs is its surplus of still-unfolding progressive excess. Like prior iterations, the Covid interventions and deficit-spending were implausibly deemed “stimulus,” even as 2020 America was already shattering spending records with a $27 trillion debt.
In an era when contentious electoral politics has led to obsession over “the vote,” entirely left out of the discourse is the notion that sane boundaries must exist on matters legitimately subject to vote. Like much of the century-old progressive agenda, Biden’s Build Back Better intervention consists of coercive planks that you and I have no right to force on one another; and in turn, no right to delegate to a so-called representative to impose on the population. Billionaires are told to “pay their fair share”—of somebody else’s kid’s preschool and childcare. But even among us normal people, I don’t have a power to force you to pay for some other adult’s normal familial responsibilities, or to give him a free two-year degree.
With certain charitable and honorable exceptions, adults are responsible for their own decisions in a free and fair society whose members do not all have their hands in one another’s pockets at the instigation of government. That gets swept away the alternate social-regulatory universe of Build Back Better. Way back when Ronald Reagan said government is the problem, he meant a problem for the then-more-sovereign American citizen. But big government is an end it itself for elites legislating over aspects of the chaos their own interventions helped cause and prolong, such as the misnamed “supply chain” and inflation crises.
It is not enough to simply reject Build Back Better. Unless reversed by a cultural shift and aggressive legislation to restore normalcy in governance to prevent and discipline the abuse of crises, this deterioration overseen by our leaders will escalate again when another economic shock occurs. That would be game over for limited government, assuming we are not there already.
Even in the best of times, because of opportunism and political predation, there is a persistent tendency toward economic stagnation if government fails to perform its “classical” function of ensuring that prices of materials, labor and other inputs are not increasingly distorted by interference from pressure groups and policymakers themselves. Now, almost the only thing government does is interfere across myriad sectors at every opportunity. As the bipartisan infrastructure bill attests, both parties enjoy picking “winners,” although politicians are incapable of doing that well. The Build Back Better package takes social and infrastructure intervention to a new level.
Citizens the world over were told the fraught aftermath of the coronavirus will be the new normal. It has been obvious for a long time now that lost old normal is composed of the vestiges of limited government. The crisis is less the coronavirus, which could be dealt with humanely and in targeted fashion, than custodial state’s forging of chains wherein all matters great and small rise to the level of public policy. It is apparent that handful of decades, lifetimes at most, is enough to bury individual rights under centralized programs, visions and national plans. Thus the urgency of an alternate vision, not just the temporary blocking of Build Back Better.
The erosion of liberties and responsibility, and now the rise of aggressive executive mandates like that of forced vaccination, are more viral than Covid-19 and a greater threat than biological contagion. The overseas version of what Biden is attempting to impose upon the U.S. is commonly deemed a “reset.” An actual reset would restore classical liberalism; that is, individual freedoms and responsibilities. What the left seeks is not a “reset” at all but the fulfillment of a longstanding agenda. What was once the “mere” placement of grownups on parents’ insurance and Obama/Clinton/Biden proposals for free community college is steadily transforming into the pursuit of a guaranteed minimum income for the able bodied, which might well be regarded the plural of apocalypse as far as government restraint is concerned.
For every “Spendulus” there is an equal and opposite liberalization and fortification, however. It is insufficient to simply stop the Biden/progressive agenda. An Abuse-of-Crisis Prevention Act is necessary to foster individual and household resilience; massive advances in “rainy-year” funds on the part of lower-level governments, corporations, businesses and households; and the long-overdue discipline of opportunism at the expense of the public and constitutional government.
Read the full article at Forbes.