Lingamfelter: The Scented Trash Bags of Government

By Scott Lingamfelter

In case you’ve been overwhelmed by pandemics, political scandals, racialized politics, and the latest uproar about a comment some thoughtless person made on social media, then it may have passed you by that America’s national debt is approaching $30 trillion—that’s “trillion” with a “T”—with no sign of abating. Frankly, some people do not give a hoot about it. They reason that we’re the richest nation in the world, so all we need to do is sit back and spend with the insouciant attitude of a self-indulgent Roman at an orgy. Vivamus, moriendum est, “let us live, for we must die,” as drunk Romans reasoned.

Some people think it’s unnecessary to worry about the national debt. I do not. Here could be cited many statistics that highlight the seriousness of the matter. One of the best ways to understand public debt is to see it expressed as a ratio to Gross National Product (GDP), the sum total of the goods and service our nation creates annually. When we fought the American revolution, that ratio approached 40 percent. The average ratio during the 20th Century hovered between 30 and 60 percent. As of 2019 it’s 107 percent.

Why? Because we are wedded to excessive spending as a nation. Since the advent of the New Deal during the Great Depression of the 1930’s, Americans have embraced the notion that we can solve the pain of life by spending our way to happiness. It’s all about Panem et Circenses, “bread and circuses.” The Romans originated that as well.

At some point we have to account for our opulent government spending that is—in two words—profligate waste. We fund things we shouldn’t—like academic studies that have the most remote connection to the functions of government. We fund a huge amount of social welfare that has created a dependency society where work is something we do, well, when we feel like it. We fund organizations that exist for the taking of human life. We fund universities that are devoted to teaching students how corrupt and awful America is and was from our very beginning. Never mind that we are the freest and most prosperous nation in all of history. And even in programs where we have consensus for helping the needy, we’ve become excessive We have taken Medicaid, a healthcare program for those who are penniless, and turned it into a benefits program for the able-bodied.

What has caused this? The lust for political power caused it. And nothing sates that beast better than the advance of socialist policies through wildly inflated spending and intrusion into the lives of people. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher may have said it best in 1976.

“I think they’ve [socialists] made the biggest financial mess that any government’s ever made in this country for a very long time, and Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money. It’s quite a characteristic of them. They then start to nationalize everything, and people just do not like more and more nationalization, and they’re now trying to control everything by other means. They’re progressively reducing the choice available to ordinary people. Look at the trouble now we’re having with choice of schools. Of course parents want a say in the kind of education their children have.”

Is it any wonder that we are seeing our freedom slip away as we spend ourselves into oblivion? At the same time we are passing the cost of government onto those struggling daily to make ends meet who are pursuing that novel concept we call “work?”

Recently in Virginia, a legislator passed a law banning polystyrene containers as bad for the environment. Sure, polystyrene containers strewn about is bad. So try this. Don’t litter. This is but another example of pseudo-moralistic busybodies “helping” us by “hurting” us. They tell us self-righteously that we don’t need these containers to keep our restaurant leftovers warm. Never mind the cost to restaurants which are already burdened by governmental stupidity in the age of COVID. Along the way, they missed how we use these to provide warm food to homeless people in our community in an expression of personal charity, not a government mandate that makes things more expensive.

And therein lies the point. Our politicians waste our money needlessly and they make our lives more difficult because they think they know better than we do, even in feeding the hungry.

Maybe they should approach government spending like smart people do every day. You can spend more money for scented trash bags with those nice pull ties, or buy the ones without those frills that are the cheapest on the grocery shelf. After all, you’re going to throw it away, just like our government does with our money.

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