Two parties, same big government

BY JONATHAN SLEMROD

Published September 7, 2008

I have a simple and honest talking point that both Barack Obama and John McCain can use this campaign season: “I will exponentially grow the size and scope of government.” Indeed, politics of personality and feel-good adjectives such as “change,” “hope” and “reform” have replaced any substantive discussion of the reality that neither candidate will fight our country’s real problem: big government.

Anyone familiar with the tax-spend-regulate-repeat mantra of the Democratic Party knows that Obama’s notion of “change” is feeble. His platform of increasing taxes on everything from energy to investment will surely satisfy big-spending politicians in Washington, D.C., eager to delve into the hundreds of billions in new government spending he has proposed.

Obama regularly attacks “Big Oil,” conveniently avoiding the fact that he voted to give $85 billion in tax breaks and subsidies to the energy industry in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. His ideology injects more government into health care, bails out everything from Fannie Mae to Detroit automakers and willingly grabs the “excessive” profits of oil companies for new spending programs.

This is not to say that McCain is a saint. His “maverick” affinity for bipartisanship has led to sweeping restrictions on free speech through campaign finance reform and an increasingly interventionist and costly foreign policy.

McCain joined Obama in supporting the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which legitimizes the illegitimate act of warrantless wiretapping of American citizens. McCain’s opposition to earmarks and wasteful spending deserves praise, but like Obama, he supports an enormously burdensome cap-and-trade scheme that will substantially increase energy prices and damage our economy while having little, if any, effect on carbon emissions.

The rapid growth of government endorsed by both candidates is not a sustainable path for our country. With a national debt nearing $10 trillion, Obama and McCain seem to have determined that the only logical solution to our long-term problems is to spend even more.

A responsible platform that truly embodied change and reform would focus on the big issues that threaten to bankrupt our country: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

The trustees of Social Security and Medicare estimated a couple years ago that Social Security will begin paying out more than the amount of revenue it receives in 2017, necessitating a solution that puts citizens, not politicians, in charge of their futures.

Obama has proposed (you guessed it!) a tax hike to solve the problem, while McCain has reluctantly endorsed a more favorable approach that allows workers to designate a fraction of their contributions for private accounts.

Common sense, free-market solutions to the entitlement crises exist, but neither candidate has stepped up to the plate to consider them.

Instead, Obama and McCain prefer to argue over the babies of the daughters of vice presidents, what someone’s wife said and who is more patriotic. I submit this: A true patriot — Democrat or Republican — desires to expand individual liberty, tackle the out-of-control growth of government and ensure that future generations have the same opportunities we have been afforded. The long-term challenges we face as a country won’t be solved by higher taxes, more wasteful spending and increased government regulation, regardless of how politically popular these solutions may be this week. Reducing the size of government allows the free market to flourish, increasing freedom and prosperity for all.

Any other approach is like putting out fire with gasoline.

Jonathan Slemrod is an LSA junior and the co-chair of the University chapter of College Libertarians.