- - Sunday, June 5, 2016


Politicians of left and right usually talk in the hazy language of abstract ideology and theory. Most Americans like plain talk about what works and what doesn’t, and when something is clearly not working they want to get rid of it and try something better. That’s the appeal of Donald Trump. Whether he’s the something better everyone is looking for is another matter.

President Obama’s administration is clearly the something that doesn’t work. He preaches, loud and often, that Americans should realize that the answers to their problems are found only by empowering and funding a government big enough to solve everything. He assails conservative critics for their lack of faith in the bloated state.

Conservative ideologues reject this for sound philosophical reasons. They know, as the late Ronald Reagan famously said, “a government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take away everything you have.” Such a government is a threat to the freedoms on which the nation was founded. Such philosophical arguments have rarely been persuasive enough to win a national election in a land as pragmatic as the United States. What gives such arguments an edge today is that millions of Americans, including many who put their faith in big government in the past, are at last persuaded by what they see, as well as what they are told, that President Obama and his wise men are simply wrong.

The regulatory state intrudes into every life and does not produce as promised. The Federal Register, the inventory of the regulations governing the business of the country, ran to 2,600 pages in the 1930s and this year runs to 80,000 pages. Larry Summers, the former secretary of the Treasury and a Democrat, observes that repairing a bridge in Boston, that took a year to build in an earlier day, now requires five years. Most of those extra months are spent trying to struggle through bureaucratic regulations and assorted argle-bargle.

The Veterans Administration scandal has shaken the nation’s conscience, and in recent hearings the inspector general of the Veterans Administration conceded that his office sees its duty as protecting not veterans, but the Veterans Administration itself. Meanwhile veterans wait in long lines for the care they were promised. Many die waiting.

Jeh Johnson, the director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, blames the long lines at airports this summer not on his agency, but on the very travelers waiting in line. If they were home in bed, presumably there would be no long lines. Metro, the subway system in Washington that was regarded as one of the best in the world when it opened four decades ago, is beset now with fires and fatal crashes and must be shut down to make repairs that managers should have made years ago.

Big government is its own worst enemy because it cannot deliver what it promises, and its failures are often spectacular, proving correct the ancient folk wisdom that “I cannot hear what you say because what you do speaks so loud.” This is the season that Americans are looking for answers, and it’s hard to find them. The people have been lied to and misled for so long they have grown skeptical and cynical. Who can blame them?

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