As former President Ronald Reagan famously said: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”
Today, most Americans seem to be at odds with that statement. In May 2020, The New York Times ran the headline: “Big Government? For now, most Americans say bring it on,” and explained: “Battered by the coronavirus, the American public is increasingly looking to the federal government to provide an economic lifeline, polls suggest.”
“There’s no real public support for ending social distancing, and there’s very real public support for more spending, with the sort of top priorities being keeping small businesses open, preventing states and localities from having to cut services, and checks to Americans,” Sean McElwee, a founder of the left-wing polling firm Data for Progress, told The Times last year.
Mr. McElwee was correct. President Joe Biden was ushered into office largely on the promise of expanding the social welfare state to rescue those financially impacted by the coronavirus. To expand government services, after all, it’s the government’s job to help.
Yet, as his administration has proven, the federal government is full of bureaucratic red tape, staffed with self-interested career politicians who rarely, if ever, deliver on the promises they’ve made to the American public.
Take, for example, the eviction moratorium boondoggle. It was meant to be a temporary program where tenants, who lost their job during the federally mandated economic shutdown, couldn’t be evicted from their apartments. They could apply for the federal program to get monetary assistance, and then, when they got back up on their feet, could pay back rent to their landlords.
The program was the brainchild of the executive branch and is run by the Centers for Control and Disease Prevention. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court said the White House couldn’t legally extend it — Congressional approval was needed. On Saturday evening, the program expired. The White House blamed Congressional Democrats; Congressional Democrats blamed the White House. Now, about 11 million Americans stand to be evicted from their homes, according to a survey from the Census Bureau.
So what went wrong? The federal government set aside $47 billion to help renters meet their obligations, more than twice the $21 billion in back rent currently owed. However, only $3 billion, or 7%, of those funds actually found their way to those in need.
Well, many state and local authorities, of whom the federal funds were meant to be distributed, didn’t have offices set up to deal with this new program – they had to build the infrastructure from scratch, which takes time. Then there was the paperwork needed to apply – a dizzying array of signoffs required from local authorities, legal aid lawyers, housing court officials and local nonprofits. Landlords had to fill out complex financial forms and abide by federal eligibility rules. Some tenants, feeling protected by the government’s promise of noneviction, didn’t even bother to submit themselves to the process and are now wondering what they can do.
The answer: Don’t depend on the federal government to solve your problems. There are more than 9 million job openings in the U.S., and coronavirus vaccinations are free. The economy is open. It’s time to get out and get a job and pay your rent.
Yet, Democrats are scrambling. They know big government failed many of their constituents, so they’re now making more promises. They’re going to simplify the application process. They’re going to loosen the restrictions on state governments to get the funds out. They’re going to create new programs and assistance. They’re going to lean in on these greedy landlords, who are mostly small-business owners, facing bankruptcy if they don’t pay back their loans. They’ll throw more taxpayer funds at the problem.
Trust them. They’ll get it right this time.
Or go with your gut. For Mr. Reagan’s adage still stands, even if unpopular in this day in age: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”