Our federal government is very good at moving money from place to place. In fact, some 70 percent of federal government spending consists of simply shipping money from one place to another -- after taking a cut off the top. "In effect the government has become primarily a massive money-transfer machine," notes John Merline at Investor’s Business Daily, "taking $2.6 trillion from some and handing it back out to others."
But who decided to spend that money?
If you disagree with government-as-ATM, you ought to be able to campaign against the politicians who are making the spending decisions. But you cannot. Last year, two-thirds of all federal spending was automatic. That means lawmakers had no control over it; it just happened. As payments for the "Big Four" (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and interest on the debt) increase, the amount of automatic spending will as well.
Even for the third or so of the federal government that isn’t on autopilot, it’s difficult to argue that elected lawmakers are actually calling the shots.
Most of the important decisions these days in Washington, D.C., about spending and policy in general, are made by unelected bureaucrats -- "experts," as Progressives like to call them. Think of the biggest laws passed during the Obama presidency: ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank. These laws cover thousands of pages and were legitimately passed by Congress. But they don’t spell out what people must, or must not, do.
Instead, they’re vague laws, filled with what the Heritage Foundation’s Bob Moffit calls "aspirational language." The bills require bureaucrats in executive branch departments to write much of the actual "law."
Months after Dodd-Frank passed, “The vast majority of regulations required by the law are yet to be written,” law professor Jeremy Siegel noted. “The devil of this law is not only in the details, but also in the regulators who enforce them.” For the same reason, ObamaCare refers to the Secretary of HHS some 2,500 times. Said secretary "may" or "shall" "determine" much of the actual law.