Listen, this whole system of yours could be on fire and I couldn’t even turn on the kitchen tap without filling out a twenty-seven B stroke six … bloody paperwork. Harry Tuttle in “Brazil”
Americans didn’t used to like being told what to do. We fought the Revolutionary War so that we wouldn’t have to take orders from England. We fought the Civil War to end slavery and make every American free. We fought two world wars to hold on to that freedom.
And then along came big government. Medicare to help the old. Medicaid to help the poor. Food stamps and medical leave, help for the disabled and guaranteed wages, regulations to reduce pollution and prevent financial wrongdoing. And much, much more.
Some of it was good. Some of it was needed. But much of it wasn’t. Do we really need more than 80 federal welfare programs to provide money, food, housing, medical care and social services to low-income Americans? Wouldn’t maybe three or four be more efficient?
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when regulations got the better of us. You could argue that it goes back to 1930, when the protectionist Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act helped cause the Great Depression and the New Deal made the impact worst. You could argue that it was during the ’60s, when the Great Society programs and the War on Poverty took place. As we (and many others) pointed out last year, during the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, after spending $20.7 trillion (based on 2011 dollars), the poverty level today is essentially unchanged at about 15% of the American population.