A Government Accounting Office study last year found that more than 100 programs deal with surface transportation, 82 monitor teacher quality, 47 manage job-training programs, nearly two dozen offices or programs deal with homelessness, and some 15 agencies or offices handle food safety. Five outfits focus on getting the feds to use less gasoline. Maybe they should carpool?
And those are just redundancies; imagine how many stupid things such programs are doing. According to Sen. Tom Coburn's "Wastebook," the list is endless -- from subsidizing "pancakes for yuppies" in Washington, D.C., to maintaining a video game preservation center in New York. It's enough to make a cowboy poet cry. And don't get me started on Obama's venture socialism projects.
In nearly every sphere of life not tainted by government involvement, technology and market efficiencies have made things cheaper for the average American. According to American Enterprise Institute economist Mark Perry, color TVs from the 1964 Sears Christmas Catalog cost $750 to $800. In 2011 dollars, that would buy you not just a much better flat-screen TV, but also a refrigerator, microwave oven, washer, dryer, laptop, iPod, GPS device, DVD player and stereo -- with money to spare.
Meanwhile, higher education, health care and other services distorted by government interference only get more expensive and bureaucratic. Incompetent teachers can't be fired; competent ones can't be rewarded. Unfunded liabilities and entitlements threaten to destroy the country. And so on.
Obviously, cost-cutting is only part of the story. The government meddles in our lives in non-economic ways too. But as Ron Paul would tell you, a government that stops wasting the people's money by definition stops meddling in our lives.
If Romney were more adept and philosophically grounded, he could make the case that he's the guy to turn around government. You can hear him trying, but he's not there yet.