Big Government: The Cause Of, and Solution To, All Problems

REUTERS/Mike Segar
REUTERS/Mike Segar

Having long since grown weary of “shut up” choruses, I’m not about to start one by criticizing people for buzzing about the horrible Amtrak crash. We live in a world of instant, all-pervasive communication, with Twitter ensuring that few thoughts go unexpressed, and flash mobs can form around any morsel of provocative folly. It’s natural that people would talk about an incident like this, including premature, uninformed speculation.

Having said that, it would be nice to live in a world where opportunistic partisans didn’t try to instantly shoehorn massive human tragedies into their tedious ideologies. This is especially true of politicians and media figures who can reasonably be expected to show leadership. “Leadership” doesn’t mean instantly leaping forward to blame every tragedy on insufficient government funding – including budget restraint that hasn’t actually happened yet. In fact, “leadership” means pretty much the opposite of that.

So before liberal blowhards suggest the Amtrak train threw itself off the rails in anguish, because it knew heartless Republicans were planning to hold a meeting today about cutting some of that beautiful “infrastructure” money, maybe they ought to wait for a few hard facts to roll in. It wasn’t long before we learned another train was hit by a projectile – possibly a weapon – within three miles of the crash, not 20 minutes previously. Conclusive evidence of terrorism? Hardly – it could have been a chunk of random debris, or some idiot prankster who had nothing to do with the Amtrak crash – but it’s a data point to be considered. It’s a considerably more significant data point than any gaseous left-wing theories about budget cuts.

We’ve also learned this afternoon that the crashed train was dramatically exceeding recommended speed limits – more than double the 50-mile-per-hour speed limit, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. An automated system to enforce speed limits is in hand, and has been scheduled for installation in the Philadelphia area this year, although the Inquirer says “many railroads have asked for more time to install the expensive systems, and Congress is considering extending the deadline to 2020.” It’s a mighty stretch to pin any of that on Republicans who don’t want to pour fresh billions into the black hole of Amtrak funding. Piloting a train through a curve at less than double the posted speed limit does not require advanced cybernetic assistance.

It’s amazing to hear Big Government liberals bellyaching about “infrastructure” funding when they’re so utterly incurious about what happened to the last trillion dollars Barack Obama seized for that purpose. Shouldn’t everyone responsible for making “stimulus” billions vanish into Democrat slush funds be answering hard questions about their potential culpability in the Amtrak crash?

We’re just supposed to wave off astonishing levels of graft and mismanagement every time Big Government’s high priests demand fresh tribute. You’re never allowed to ask where the last load of taxpayer cash went. The cost of fraud on a massive scale is dismissed as a non-issue, which is how we get President Obama actually trying to make jokes about hideously abused welfare programs, treating them like a figment of Fox News’ editorial imagination.

Big Government liberals, and their faithful sidekicks in the Republican establishment, endlessly promise to tackle waste, fraud and abuse – it’s built into practically every campaign platform – but they never actually do it, and they don’t expect to be penalized in any way for their irresponsibility. Don’t hassle them about all those crazy promises they made to track down billions in stolen money, or cut staggering amounts of wasteful spending – just give them more money, every time they ask.

Why, you don’t even have to pony up any more tax dollars, at least not right away! They’ll just shovel a fresh load of Skittles into the feed bags of the rainbow-farting deficit unicorns in the Treasury basement. You’ll get the tax increases later, when you complain about the exploding national debt, and the same big-spending, vote-buying pols who ran it up solemnly inform you that refusing to pay your “fair share” of their past-due bills is unpatriotic.

Deficit-crazed irresponsibility is the reason new spending programs and fresh infusions of subsidy for failed business models like Amtrak pour out of Washington every day. The Ruling Class never has to rob Peter to pay for Paul’s choo-choo trains. They don’t do “budgets” any more. When new promises are made, no plump constituency need be tugged away from the feeding troughs of Big Government’s vote farms. There is no need to tell the recipients of Subsidy X they have to give up some of “their” money to pay for expanded Subsidy Y… even when Subsidy Y primarily services political and media elites who love to pretend they’re rubbing shoulders with Joe Lunchbucket on the morning train. Only the poor saps who ultimately get stuck with the bill have to pay any price for political ambition.

Capitalism and profit are pure expressions of voluntary demand and collaboration. Big Government spending is the defiance of voluntary demand, the imposition of Ruling Class decree upon surly peasants. If a business can’t run at a profit – or, in some extreme case of genuine social need, at a very modest loss sustained by public money – it shouldn’t be there.

Amtrak is not running at a very modest loss. Taxpayers are effectively conscripted into carrying passengers aboard the trains on sedan chairs. It’s all done with the opaque machinery of tax-and-spend, to minimize the pain and humiliation of the people who are compelled against their will, and economic reason, into keeping the system afloat… except when something goes wrong, and those people are castigated as greedy S.O.B.s for refusing to pay even more.

Big Government has a self-sustaining death-spiral logic:

1. Give us money, and we’ll keep bad things from happening;

2. Every bad thing that happens proves we need more money.

If that sounds familiar, remember that climate-change theology is just a subset of Big Government programming – an extreme example of a self-reinforcing theory that cannot be disproven, with every conceivable event taken as proof that the ruling elite still isn’t powerful enough.

Big Government also isn’t shy about using its power and money to create problems, and then advance itself as the only solution. That strategy worked extremely well for turning American health care into a bloated bureaucracy that defines “success” as suppressing complaints about its failure.

Just as the last Republican in Detroit or Baltimore will be blamed for every problem faced by those troubled cities, despite generations of unchallenged Democrat rule; just as the public education system will never have enough money, no matter how lavish its per-pupil expenditures, and disappointing its results; just as the War on Poverty needs fresh financial ammunition, despite spending trillions over the course of decades to negligible effect; so everything wrong with Amtrak will be blamed on whoever resists the next demand for subsidy money.

This nonsense works because too many voters who know better tolerate it. We should stop.


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