Ken Connor

Inside the beltway, discussion of President Obama's proposed budget for fiscal year 2012 has provoked the "Sturm und Drang" that we have come to expect in the polarized partisan atmosphere that predominates in Washington.

The President maintains that his $3.7 trillion proposal – which would produce a $1.6 trillion deficit this year (the largest since WWII and a whopping 11% of the economy), is a model of fiscal responsibility and should be adopted by the Congress with dispatch. The Republicans – who have heretofore shown themselves constitutionally incapable of addressing the runaway train that is Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security – accuse the President of a lack of leadership for refusing to suggest cuts in the entitlement programs that threaten to sink the Ship of State.

And so it goes: The partisans bandy data back and forth seeking to gain political advantage without actually having to come to grips with the fact that behemoth budgets are choking the vitality out of the economic engine that was once the envy of the world.

Meanwhile, out on the hustings, the eyes of ordinary Americans glaze over as politicians throw out numbers that have 12 zeros after them. The magnitude of these figures is incomprehensible to workers who are just trying to hang on to their jobs and make it in a marketplace that has been damaged by the recent economic meltdown. And as for the data relied upon by the politicians for their positions, they can't help but think of what Mark Twain said about "lies, damned lies, and statistics."

While discussions about the national budget may seem arcane to ordinary Americans, they would do well to keep in mind some budgetary principles that impact not only their financial future, but their freedoms as well.

Principle Number 1: The Size of Government is Directly Proportional to the Amount of Money Available to It.

Money is to government as food is to human beings. The more we eat, the fatter we get. At a certain point, size becomes a liability, not an asset. We become bloated, ponderous, unhealthy, and unresponsive. The same is true for government. We are well past the day when the federal government was lean, efficient, and responsive. It has become a bloated behemoth that is ponderous, inefficient, and unresponsive. If we want to shrink government, we have to put it on a diet. That means limiting the amount of money that is available to it. It's that simple. It may not be easy, but it is simple. Disciplined dieters lose weight, but it takes willpower. Do we have what it takes to shrink the size of government? If not, it is the American people who will be the Biggest Loser.

Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.