PORTSTEWART, NORTHERN IRELAND - Britain's New Labour, despite criticism from Prime Minister Gordon Brown of a government that has grown too fast and costs too much, has been quietly planning a vast expansion of government. The Sunday Telegraph recently reported that the Economic Research Council, Britain's oldest think tank, has concluded that if the growth is allowed to happen, a huge superstate will be created that will cost overburdened taxpayers 170 billion pounds, which is equivalent to about $340 billion U.S. That is more than five times the amount of Britain's defense budget.
If any of the leading Democratic presidential candidates win the 2008 election, a similar superstate will come to America. The threat of such a government taxing at higher levels and regulating virtually every area of our lives in exchange for a promise to "take care" of us offers an opportunity for Republicans that will soon pass if not quickly seized.
It is fine for Republicans to speak of tax cuts, which indisputably have contributed to record economic growth, but a parallel issue for Republicans in 2008 should be a focus on out-of-control spending. America's puritanical "waste not, want not" heritage might yet stir enough of us to oppose needless spending if tied to an appeal for more personal responsibility and accountability for one's life. Eliminating, or at least reducing, wasteful spending weakens the Democrats' argument for tax increases. Even under Republican majority rule, including a Republican president, government has continued to grow. Only a break with that heretical Republicanism will restore credibility with voters who increasingly view the two parties as indistinguishable.
Where to start? The always excellent chronicler of such things, Citizens Against Government Waste (www.cagw.org), offers a road map in its publication, "Prime Cuts 2007." CAGW estimates that if all of its 750 recommendations for cutting unnecessary and wasteful spending were enacted, taxpayers would save $280 billion next year and $2 trillion over five years. According to the CAGW, we send $1.1 trillion of our money annually to Washington (and more to state and local governments). Demanding responsible spending from elected officials might prove to be a winning issue.
Some programs have long outlived any usefulness they might have once demonstrated. Among them, the CAGW maintains, are the White House's National Youth Anti-drug Media Campaign (eliminating it would save $512 million over five years), sugar subsidies (saving $800 million over five years), and the Advanced Technology Program (saving $721 million over five years).
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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