How to Say No

Parents find it hard to say "no" to their children. According to one source, parents "worry that a "no" will harm their relationship, or they are afraid to anger their children and "cause a battle." For parents, there are "strategies" that can be used to smooth over problems with saying "no," but for politicians, it's a different story.

Politically, it is difficult to oppose "relief" spending during a crisis. The Biden administration has found no end of crises, from COVID relief to student loan forgiveness to the climate "emergency," all of them requiring massive wealth transfer to those who just happen to be large contributors to Democrat campaigns. Even conservatives who recognize the folly of this spending find it difficult to make the case for doing nothing: a crisis, even a temporary or dubious one, seems to demand action.

Calvin Coolidge was the only American president since Theodore Roosevelt who held the line on spending, for awhile at least. A graph of real per capita spending since 1800 shows that, aside from Civil War spending, which was extremely modest by modern standards, there was little growth in federal expenditures until Woodrow Wilson's presidency.

Pre-WWI spending averaged 2.5% of GDP. Following Wilson's wartime increases, Harding and Coolidge brought spending back to pre-war levels, but every post=Depression president increased real government spending per capita, with the greatest offenders being FDR, LBJ, Obama, and Biden.

In 2021, Biden's first year in office, federal spending was 29.26% of GDP. In 2018 under President Trump, the federal government spent 20.18% of GDP. It was the excessive spending in response to COVID alongside spending for green energy that caused the historic inflation of Biden's first two years in office.

Along with inflation, which has harmed almost every American, it's estimated that at least 20% of COVID funding (or $200 billion) for small businesses was lost to fraud. Losses on green energy will probably be even greater. Forbes is correct in stating that "When the government tries to pick winners and losers in the marketplace, like the Obama-Biden administration did in 2009, taxpayers often get to foot the bill." Biden has passed $6.272 trillion in spending in fiscal 2022 alone, making the scale of funding and potential fraud a hundred times greater than under Obama.

It's crucial to understand what is meant by that bland word"spending." "Graft" would be a better description since government spending involves seizing funds from affluent individuals and corporations and distributing them to the administration's supporter and contributors. Those supporters are a diverse group — ethnic minorities, green energy producers, teachers' unions, public worker unions, gays and transgenders — but the one thing that connects all of them is involvement in pay-to-play politics. Biden's expenditures are ruinous for the country at large, but they are lucrative for the administration. This sort of graft is the oldest and dirtiest sort of politics. Biden may have lost most of his faculties, but he still understands pay-to-play.

If reelected, Biden will spend the country past the tipping point at which debt servicing impinges on all other spending. As of 2022 the ratio of total public debt to GDP was already 121%, far higher than the 77% maximum thought to be healthy for the economy.

What happens when the debt to GDP ratio reaches 200%, as it surely will, given the unwillingness of both parties to curtail spending. According to CBO projections, the US will reach that level of debt by 2051. At that point, 7% of the federal budget will go toward servicing the debt, an amount larger than Social Security spending.

The 200% level will usher in a snowball effect in which larger and larger amounts must be spent just to service the mounting debt. Ultimately, the only way to avoid default would be monetization or wealth seizure. But well before that level of debt is reached, debt levels above 77% result in the slower economy that we've seen under Obama and Biden.

What's needed is for Republicans to start saying "No." Speaker McCarthy's April, 2023, spending bill, passed by the House, is a good start since it imposes spending caps, however modest, on discretionary spending, claws back unspent COVID money, cancels student debt forgiveness, repeals tax incentives for green energy, and provides incentives for oil and gas drilling. But these small efforts are not enough. America needs representatives who will scream No. True restraint involves rolling back every agency and department, and eliminating many. Begin with the three that Rick Perry couldn't name in the 2008 presidential debate: energy, commerce, and education, none of which are areas in which government has any legitimate role.

Follow that up with drastic cuts in EPA, IRS, Justice Department, Job Corps, Peace Corps, Teacher Corps, and thousands of other programs, agencies, and departments. Eliminate federal welfare benefits and restrain Social Security and Medicare by capping spending at a percentage of GDP.

It's no different from the kind of self-discipline it takes to be successful at any endeavor. To be in fiscal control, individuals must restrain their spending (or increase income by some productive activity, not by just seizing more from others). To be healthy, one must restrict one's food consumption and engage in exercise. To be happily married, one must be considerate and caring toward one's spouse. To be socially well-liked, one must be positive, helpful, and honest with others. Just living day-to-day involves effort, something politicians don't understand because they confiscate their livings from those who actually work.

None of this is so very difficult to understand. When one embraces a conservative outlook, all things are possible. For the individual, conservative habits result in better health, a balanced budget at home, a stable marriage, and an optimistic outlook. For the country, true conservatism would bring about a genuine transformation: a balanced budget, manageable deficit, larger and more productive private sector, and greater national security.

Government should reflect the values of its citizens, but it does not reflect my values or those of at least half of Americans. At all levels government in the US, with a few exceptions, is now grossly corrupt. I believe in strength and self-reliance, but government fosters weakness and dependence. I worship the beauty of the sun, the stars, the moonlight, the healthy body, and the sound of beautiful music. Government worships payoffs, fraud, and vote-buying. 

Conservatives understand that the path to happiness is through self-restraint and self-denial. By simplifying our lives and accepting proper limits, we are able to live happily and securely. Progressives have set America on a path to economic collapse and military defeat and occupation. The country can still be saved, but only by learning how to say "no."

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).

Image: Tom Hilton via Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

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