GHEI: A land less free

America continues to lose ground in economic liberty

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The United States is no longer a beacon of freedom to the world. Countries once looked to America for inspiration on how to escape poverty and embrace prosperity, but now they can find better examples to follow. The Heritage Foundation on Thursday noted our fifth consecutive decline in its annual Index of Economic Freedom. It’s a sad day when countries such as Chile and Mauritius can outdo the red-white-and-blue when it comes to opportunity.

U.S. economic policy has broken faith with the Founding Fathers, who preached the value of property rights, sound money and the rule of law. Our government has traded the frugality of Benjamin Franklin for a habit of spending $1 trillion more than it takes in each year. Profligate lawmakers use public funds to bail out Wall Street banks and Detroit labor unions. Our currency has become so debased that economist Paul Krugman on Tuesday wrote it would be “economically harmless” for the government to mint a $1 trillion coin as a way to avoid spending cuts.

The New Year’s “fiscal cliff” deal was chock-full of crony handouts and economic rent-seeking. The nation is $16.4 trillion in debt, yet Congress and the president approved spending $57 billion more in 2013 and a total of $330 billion in additional outlays over the rest of the decade, by the Congressional Budget Office’s reckoning. The deal raises taxes by $620 billion on Americans who are about to see nationalized health insurance imposed, forcing companies to underwrite the cost of abortions against their moral principles. This is not what America stands for.

Instead, we’re being outperformed by the economic growth of our neighbor to the north, Canada, where Conservative Party Prime Minister Stephen Harper has held public spending in check while cutting the corporate tax rate to 15 percent. At the top of the Heritage list is Hong Kong, which prospers despite the increasing control exerted from Beijing. Hong Kong’s low-tax, low-regulation philosophy has delivered solid economic growth, 3.4 percent unemployment and a commendably low public debt ratio of 34 percent (compared with the U.S. figure of 104 percent).

These countries succeed because they live up to the fundamental principles that made America great. President Obama is moving us even further in the wrong direction with his intention to use executive orders to bypass the legislative process and enact an unpopular agenda. History suggests he will take advantage of the upcoming debt-ceiling deal to boost government spending to new heights.

We’re already on an unsustainable path, as the accountants at the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office have been warning. There is no way for America to maintain her position in the world while the public sector swallows more and more resources from the private sector. Instead of following countries such as Greece and France in spending our way toward financial ruin, it’s time to re-embrace the limited-government, free-market philosophy that works.

Nita Ghei is a contributing Opinion writer for The Washington Times.


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