Jonah Goldberg

While the spirit of compromise still stirs the nation's capital, while children dream new dreams that they may one day cut a side deal in the corridors of power, while the media treats John McCain as the only Jedi capable of saving our republic, let us turn to something worth cutting a deal over: The bloated, sweaty, belching, Jabba-the-Hut-like size of the federal government and the acrid flatulence it creates that we call the "deficit."

I hate writing columns about cutting government because it feels so pointless, like writing about how bears shouldn't be using the nation's forests as toilets. The American people have grown cozy with the idea of a federal government which has grown far beyond anything imaginable even a few decades ago. Did you know - and I am not making this up - that in the 1980s, Nancy Reagan's White House staff was larger than FDR's at the height of World War II?

But this is a new moment. The Senate deal over judges has caused a herpes-like outbreak of consensus-philia along the Potomac. The lamb will vote for cloture with the lion. Lex Luthor and Superman have signed a Memorandum of Understanding.

So perhaps now is the time to get serious about taking something more than a dull pocketknife to the mountain range of fatback running along the spine of Leviathan.

The problem so far has been, simply, politicians like spending other people's money. As one wag put in the 1980s, "Today, wanting someone else's money is called 'need,' wanting to keep your own money is called 'greed,' and 'compassion' is when politicians arrange the transfer." Nothing could be more true of life today under Big Government Conservatism.

In Bush's first term, he spent money like a pimp with only a week to live. He had some good excuses. He had inherited a crashing economy, and the war on terror wasn't exactly factored into his budget forecasts. But enough's enough. For the first time since World War II, federal spending per household is $20,000. And more people work for the federal government than at any time since then end of the Cold War.

Bush's people are making the right noises these days and they seem - seem! - to be taking spending just a bit more seriously. Unfortunately, Bush lost some credibility in his first term. And, to be fair, he was never a small-government conservative in the first place. He always said he wanted to do more on education, teen pregnancy, social activism and the like.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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