It's a peculiarity of contemporary culture that government spending has achieved a kind of civic cache. It's probably due to a combination of factors, beginning with a nascent ignorance of how and why this Republic was founded, and including the tacit denial that discipline is one of the prerequisites for a life of virtue.
Writing in today's Denver Post, David Harsanyi extols that and other endangered virtues by touting the low-tax and fiscal restraint that has made Colorado the envy of a spendthrift nation. Culture is the mechanism that provides plausibility to public policy, and when a large fiscal footprint for government is viewed as prudent--which is surely the case today--we can be assured capitalism and free enterprise will suffer. Witness the debacle evolving in California, the only place in America that can make inebriated mariners look positively frugal.
But, it's not limited to the poor souls on the west coast. Nationwide, the license to expand government seems limitless, and, as the Congressional Budget Office noted this week, the 2009 deficit will likely crest $1.8 trillion, a fourfold increase. The debate between fiscal stimulus and monetary policy to redress our ailing economy would be a healthy one, but our elected officials have conveniently ducked the question.
Since inaction is a kind of kryptonite for politicians, they've all excelled at hogging the stage to outspend their colleagues. Underlying the premise of their fiscal effervescence is an implied understanding that the electorate is incapable of the sacrifice and work necessary to weather an economic downturn. Those who made imprudent decisions with respect to volatile mortgages, along with businesses from AIG to General Motors, are being 'rescued' from their stupidity, which will only ensure it will resurface again, none the wiser from the experience.
Here in Colorado, one of the last vestiges of civic restraint and discipline, our legislators are showing signs of succumbing to the national addiction to spending. As reported in yesterday's Colorado Springs Gazette, Democrat Governor Bill Ritter just signed a bill that eliminated a 1991 law that imposed a "6 percent annual growth limit on appropriations to the state's general fund and mandated that money in excess of the 6 percent be automatically diverted to two separate pots of money, the transportation and capital construction funds."
State Sen. John Morse, a Colorado Springs Democrat, touted the legislation, asserting it "simply provides greater flexibility so the state can make wiser investments with existing resources." [emphasis added]. Well, in case you haven't noticed, the Democrats have redacted the word "tax" from our national lexicon and replaced it with "investment." Mr. Morse, being an astute student (read politician), is merely parroting President Obama, who is so obviously enamored of government spending. And, of course "flexibility" is just code for a license to exploit, which is yet another transparently obtuse attempt to frustrate the will of voters.
Of course, it would be more challenging for Democrats locally and nationally to achieve their statist aims if voters didn't telegraph conflicting messages by electing them. The next two elections are litmus tests that will either impede or abet the Democrats' (and their invertebrate cousins across the aisle) propensity to expand the role of government in our lives.
Let's not stand idly by as they decimate what's left of this great Republic.