There’s a natural cycle to all of history, and in many areas governments can only nudge things this way or that. The economy is a good example: Leave bad times alone and — sooner or later — they get better.
Dictatorships often try to take a greater role. For instance, the Soviet Union attempted to make everyone completely equal to everyone else (with the exception of those in charge). The result was a fairly steady economy, with such features as long lines for luxuries such as toilet paper, and cars that didn’t burn much gas because they wouldn’t run.
On the other hand, Communist China had luck growing their economy … by embracing free market concepts. So the first common sense rule for saving America is:
1. Get out of the way of business, especially small business. Don’t drown them in red tape, paperwork, overwhelming rules, and government takeovers. Don’t over regulate them – although for heaven’s sake, don’t under regulate them, either.
I never said it would be easy.
It’s tough to determine the right level of regulation. Ironically, past governments forced banks to loosen borrowing requirements. As a result, people who couldn’t afford to pay back loans got them anyway, and voila – financial crisis. I guess you could call that a case of anti-regulation. In any case, the footprint of government should be as small as possible.
2. On a related note, government must shrink. Many new jobs taken on by the federal government over the years are not allowed by our Constitution; but even if they were, it makes no sense to spend money we don’t have.
If your family income goes down, you don’t react by firing up a printing press in the basement and making more money – you cut spending. Big, deep, painful cuts of anything non-essential are needed. What’s the cost of electricity for a printing press, anyway?
During a recession government spending is needed, but it must be spending that works – and not so much spending that it just sets us up for another economic disaster down the road. Which leads me to my next common sense rule for saving America:
3. Learn from history. During the Great Depression, FDR and Congress came up with huge new spending programs, which they hoped would provide jobs and kick-start the economy. Many people received relief, and that can’t be discounted. Still, the lens of history is showing that massive government intervention actually lengthened the Depression, which was finally ended not by the government, but by the outbreak of World War 2.
So stimulus packages – consisting of the government printing truck loads of cash that it doesn’t have – might in the long run hurt more than they help. It also further bloats a bureaucracy that’s hovering over our country like Godzilla threatening Tokyo.
4. When federal money is spent, make it mean something.
Nobody wastes a taxpayer’s dollar like a bureaucrat. Somebody needs to take hold of it, and by that I mean somebody who’s answerable to the taxpayer – not a “czar.” Where does it say a President can circumnavigate the Constitution and appoint his own people, anyway? Oh, that’s right – it doesn’t.
Stimulus funds should go directly to something that will strengthen our future economy. For example, train and employ people to design, build, and install a combination of technologies – wind, solar, water, battery, cleaner coal, bio, and nuclear. Extend fiber optics, replace roads and bridges, develop better power distribution, and anything else that’s too expensive for private companies.
By the time all that’s done, businesses should be ready to absorb the program workers into an economy improved by better communications, transportation, and power systems.
5. Stop buying oil from nations that hate us.
See above about new energy technologies. I don’t give a hoot about climate change until people are employed and secure, but importing foreign oil has a bad effect on everything. Develop alternative energy sources, and while the technology changes over, drill for domestic oil sources.
6. Fight the bad guys. We tried ignoring them before World War II. Didn’t work. We tried ignoring them in the 90’s; they responded by attacking the World Trade Center, among many other targets. After that, we ignored them some more; they responded by attacking the World Trade Center again. Ignoring them doesn’t work. (And neither does treating them like common criminals.)
Yes, the world’s developed countries should help lift up others to the degree we can, and work on global problems that contribute to terrorism and dictatorship; but that doesn’t mean we have to sit around with a big bull’s-eye painted on our collective foreheads.
7. Control our borders. Yes, we can.
If someone sneaks into this country from Mexico, he’s illegal; send him back. If he sneaks into the country from France, he’s illegal; send him back. If he sneaks into the country from a beautiful tropical island in the Pacific, he’s illegal and crazy. Doesn’t matter who he is or where he’s from – don’t reward people for breaking the law.
8. Take responsibility. For yourself, your kids, your community, and your country. We need to stop the poor victim blame game that’s siphoning our self-respect and lining the pockets of lawyers.
9. Vote the bums out. Tell everyone in Washington that they can no longer buy our votes with pork barrel programs and “entitlements.” If one Congressman refuses to take a million dollar bribe to build an amoeba museum in his district, he might anger voters who should know better; but if all Congressmen take responsibility and line up behind line item votes and vetoes, limiting spending, and making the hard choices, we’ve got a shot at changing things.
10. Send me chocolate. I prefer milk chocolate, but fudge will do. This will at least improve my world view.
Common sense, personal responsibility, living within our means. Do these things, and we’ve got a shot at making the next decade better than the last. Maintain the status quo, and there’s a real chance that hundreds of years from now someone will write a book about this age called “The Decline and Fall of Western Civilization.”