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    In What?

    We’re Number One

    by | Apr 24, 2013

    Number One DollarWhat are we to believe about the size of government and the level of government spending?

    Republicans say that the U.S. government has become way too big and that Americans are grossly overtaxed. Is that true?

    In the United States, the rate of taxation is lower, and the size of government in relation to the size of the economy is smaller, than in just about every other nation like ours—rich, free, capitalistic, democratic societies.

    Our peers around the world have decided that the best balance between the things that can be bought by people separately in the market and the things we have to buy together through tax dollars means having a government as big as ours, or bigger. So if Republicans are right, and government and taxation are too big, then not only are Americans foolish — every other society like ours is foolish.

    In the Declaration of Independence, our Founders called for “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind.” And dismissing as foolish the judgment of dozens of advanced societies like ours hardly seems in keeping with that “decent respect.”

    The attempt to discredit government and reduce its size may serve some interests but not the people. For example, government is the only entity strong enough to serve as a check on the huge agglomerations of private power in our big corporations.

    The issue shouldn’t be the size of government but how wisely and justly we use it.

    When Republicans call for cuts in spending, they take the position that we need to cut back on social programs and, indeed, on virtually every aspect of non-defense discretionary spending. But they strongly oppose cuts to defense spending. Is this the way to make America the best that it can be?

    Republicans have in recent years encouraged the habit of boasting about our country, “We’re number 1.” And when it comes to defense spending, we’re already number 1, and it’s not a close call. The United States spends almost as much on defense as the rest of the nations of the world combined. And most of the other large defense budgets are in countries that are our allies, not our enemies.

    Is military spending the part of the budget where more spending will do most to help this nation fulfill its potential?

    We’re also number 1 of all the nations on earth in how many of our people are in prison, number 1 among the 20 major advanced nations in the rate of infant mortality rate; in income inequality; in the proportion of our people, especially our children, who live in poverty; in how much we spend per person on health care, while also having the most people who go without health care because of cost.

    Shouldn’t these be the kinds of areas where we invest?

    Among advanced nations, we have the highest homicide rate; the second-highest high school drop-out rate; the highest rate of obesity; and the lowest rate of social mobility (the ability of people to climb up to a higher economic level than that into which they were born).

    In tests of students from around the world, in various subjects, America’s children come out far from the top.

    Are you satisfied with this picture? I’m not.

    What does it say about a political party if it protects that part of the budget where we’re already fat, and wants to trim areas where we are hurting and deficient?

    What kind of patriot brags about his country’s greatness while advocating policies that undermine its true strength?

    ###
    • Image: Licensed by LikeTheDew.com at iStock.com
    Andy Schmookler

    Andy Schmookler

    Andy Schmookler is the author of The Parable of the Tribes, and was the Democratic nominee for Congress in Virginia’s 6th District.

     

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    • Anoni

      Thank you for gracing Like the Dew with your presence and highlighting America’s controversial take on its own virtues. I applaud what you write about the disgraceful waste on the one hand and dearth on the other concerning health care. You spell out the disconnect between national priorities and taxation. It makes no sense to shudder at taxation when it’s necessary to provide for the population. It is not morally defensible to grab profits for the rich at the expense of the poor. The prison system is woeful. The defense industry is disproportionate and the education system does not compare well with other countries.
      How refreshing to read your essay. We don’t like to see ourselves as others see us, and you have done us a favor.

      • Andy Schmookler

        Thank you very much, Anoni.

    • hannah

      Actually, at the federal level, the purpose of taxation is to return the currency produced by the Treasury back to the Treasury so it can be kept moving and sent out again. State and local governments tax because the federal government does not adequately “share” what it spends and collects.

      It is almost ironic, but the countries of the newly formed euro zone are now discovering the plight shared by the several states of the U.S. since the end of the Civil War when a common currency was imposed, along with preserving the Union.
      Ideally, the Congress, which is tasked with managing the currency, along with setting standards for weights and measures, would distribute currency as needed. Instead, presumably because it makes our Representatives feel powerful, the Congress has delegated the management of the currency to the Federal Reserve Bank, which issues it to other banks, so they can lend it back to the Treasury and collect a bonus on what Congress then spends.
      In effect, Congress “launders” money through the Federal Reserve to disguise the partial and preferential disbursements it effects to just one purpose — the continuance in office of incumbents.

      • http://likethedew.com Lee Leslie

        Best explanation I’ve heard. Could we get some Congresspeople to read this?

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