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).
The Historic Whaling and Trading Partners program, ($45 million in savings over five years), and the Denali Commission ($35 million over five years) are two other programs recently added to the CAGW's list.
The Historic Whaling and Trading Partners program, says the CAGW, is charged with developing "culturally-based educational activities, internships, apprentice programs, and exchanges to assist Alaska Natives, native Hawaiians, children and families living in Massachusetts, and certain Indian tribes in Mississippi. Projects in 2006 include the New Bedford Whaling Museum and the Peabody Essex Museum, both in Massachusetts, the Alaska Native Heritage Center, and the Bishop Museum in Hawaii." This is pork and in any case ought not to be a federal responsibility.
The Denali Commission, established in 1998 during Republican control of Congress, is, according to the CAGW, "a federal partnership with Alaska to provide utilities, infrastructure, and economic support to poor rural communities." Whatever perceived benefits that might have come from this program, the commission duplicates several programs in the Labor Department, "including those related to the Workforce Investment Act, from which Alaskans received $10.6 million in 2006." Who favors paying twice for the same program?
Democrats love it when Republicans focus only on cutting taxes, because it cedes to them the "fairness issue." Focusing on waste, fraud and abuse, which admittedly some Republicans have been guilty of in the recent past, could restore the GOP to its previous position as guardian of our pockets and purses against the overreaching hand and insatiable appetite of government. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, government never thinks it spends too little or taxes too much.
British Labour is way ahead of America in its plans to grow their government. Republican presidential candidates had better start speaking to America about the dangers in following their lead.
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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