So You Want To Shrink the Government?

Here’s the basic problem with wanting to drastically cut gov’t spending, rather than increasing taxes (or a combo of both):

Everyone, both politicians and citizens, proposes “wasteful” or “unneeded” programs to cut. But every program is wasteful, too big, or completely unneeded to someone. It’s easy to cut a program you’re not using (or are using but don’t really need). If you want me to take you seriously when you say that we need to cut gov’t, tell me 3 gov’t services that you rely on–not just use, but that it would actually hurt you to lose, and you’d have to give something up to compensate, or otherwise change your life without it–to cut. Big or small, doesn’t matter to me; what matters is that they matter to you.I’m not sure I can do it. First of all, I don’t make use of a lot of gov’t services. But the ones I use are pretty expensive: roads is one I use directly, a lot. More in previous jobs. I’d be willing to see construction of roads completely end, but I wouldn’t be willing to see maintenance of roads (and particularly bridges) decrease significantly. I indirectly benefit greatly from police, fire, and military. I went to a state school, so my university tuition was heavily subsidized. My parents paid for it, and could’ve afforded full tuition, so I suppose I could realistically give that up. I don’t make direct use of public schools any more, and might never again–but if I had the choice, they’d get more, not less, money.

I live in a municipality with a lot fewer gov’t-provided services, and I miss some of them. Trash used to be part of property taxes, and I preferred that to having to use a private service here. But, realistically, while we’re paying a little more it is otherwise working just fine on both an individual and societal level, as near as I can tell. I think I’d rather pay more taxes, and have those services (trash, and other) again.

I have been blessed to never need the use of food stamps, unemployment, social security, or any of that sort of thing, but I did get multiple hours of 1-on-1 counseling from a professional job coach, for free, and really, really benefited from that.

No, we can’t continue to increase gov’t spending infinitely, especially if we’re not willing to raise taxes to pay for it. And we probably can’t raise taxes enough to pay for everything everyone wants. But I really don’t hear anyone making serious suggestions–that is, ones that are both politically viable and mathematically possible–to do anything about this. Everyone is either pushing the problem into the future, making suggestions that won’t actually make a real difference, or making suggestions that the public, based on polling, doesn’t support.

So, this is my test: if you want me to take you seriously when you say we have to cut spending, propose 3 things that will hurt you personally–that you are willing to give up for the greater good. Otherwise, all we do is keep shouting past each other, and we’ll either get nowhere or, at best, those in power will bully those not in power, cutting things that only affect the powerless.

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