Hear Me Out: Do Americans need less government or more government?

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As election season wears on, we're asking the question: Do Americans need less government or more government?

Russell Redenbaugh, a former Commissioner on the US Civil Rights Commission who served under three presidents , says more government, by definition, means less economic prosperity and opportunity.

Douglas J. Amy, Professor of Politics at Mount Holyoke College, says Americans are facing growing threats to their wellbeing, and this calls for increased government efforts to deal with these pressing problems.

So, what do you think?

Click "Next" to read the first of two positions, "Why Smaller Government is Needed"

Why Smaller Government is Needed: By Russell Redenbaugh, Kairos Capital Advisors LLC

As election season heats up we remember our mantra:  Policy matters, not political party.  We are in favor of government/economic policies that increase growth and prosperity regardless of which political party implements them.  Remember that Clinton and Reagan, a Democrat and a Republican, each implemented policies that produced 20 million new jobs, high GDP/income growth and booming stock markets.  So, which policies did they follow?  History proves that the fastest economic growth and greatest prosperity gains happen when governments get out of the way and let people go to work.  Growing government always stifles the rest of the economy resulting in no or low job growth and falling "real" middle class incomes.  The US has been following such large government polices for 12 years under two presidents.  Accordingly, we have lived through a lost dozen years with lower incomes, diminished retirement savings, lower home values and a dismal outlook for our debt burdened and underemployed young people.  The only solution is government policies that grow the economy much faster than the government.   One great thing about America is that every four years the electorate gets to vote for or against the policies in place. So what will voters choose in 2012?   

Jude Wanniski, in his famous book "The Way the World Works (Polyconomics, 1978)," shows that the long sweep of history has been a trial and error process to find the head of state who can deliver economic growth not a growing government.  In Jude's elegant political model the electorate is never wrong.  Voters always choose the candidate that best fulfills their needs whether the actual candidates, pundits or the media agree or not.   Jude's model also demonstrates that often neither candidate offers the exact policy mix that voters want.   When both candidates offer policies that lead to economic contraction, voters will prefer the candidate offering redistribution policies because such policies will better allow many voters to survive in a poor economy.  This pattern exists until some moment when the voters' choice is truly between economic contraction versus economic growth.

More government, by definition, means less economic prosperity and opportunity. and Obama is running on a set of policies that will further expand our already bloated government.  However, that does not mean Romney will automatically win.  Romney must prove to the electorate in overwhelming fashion that his policies will reverse the last twelve years and spark the 1980's-90's type of economic growth.  He must prove that he is a credible leader to transition the country from big government/slow growth policies to smaller government/high growth policies.  If he fails to do so, the electorate will assess that he is not the credible growth choice.  Voters will assume four more years of poor economy, and many will find themselves better served in the short term by the redistribution policies of Obama.

We have suffered 12 years of bad economic policies.  the burden is now on Romney to convince the electorate he is the economic growth option.  So far he has failed to do so.  Betting market odds for an Obama victory recently surged from 58% to 69%.  Romney's his make or break moment to convince the people he really is the growth option will be the first Presidential debate.  He must establish his growth credentials and layout specific plans to implement them.  If he does not he will lose as those voters concerned for their economic survival will correctly choose four more years of bigger government.  the economic result will be slower growth and higher inflation, but these voters will have more transfer payments to help them through this poor growth environment. Voters always vote their self-interest. If Romney fails to prove he is the growth option, we will have a larger government and smaller private sector.  Perhaps in another four years there will emerge a Clinton like candidate with policies that produce entitlement reform, high growth and a rising tide that lifts all boats rather than policies that grow the government.


Do you agree with this opinion? Add a comment below to sound off.

Click "Next" to read the second position, "Why We Need More Government"

Why We Need More Government: By Douglas J. Amy, Professor of Politics at Mount Holyoke College and creator of the website www.governmentisgood.com

The argument over the size of government has been one of the central political debates of our time.  Conservatives have tried to cut back on social spending and regulatory programs, while liberals have done their best to maintain the current size of government by staving off attacks on Social Security, Medicare, and regulatory programs protecting consumers, workers, and the environment.

But a good case can be made that we should actually be expanding government.  The argument for this is very straightforward:  Americans are facing growing threats to their wellbeing, and this calls for increased government efforts to deal with these pressing problems.

Here are just a few examples of some of the worsening social and economic problems we face as a nation. Poverty in the highest it has been in fifty years: over 46 million are now poor, and one half of all Americans will be poor at some point in their life.  Economic inequality is growing with 93% of the income growth in 2010 going to the top 1%.  The middle class is shrinking.  Wages have been stagnant for decades. We are facing increasing environmental problems, with global warming being just one of them. Vital infrastructure facilities like roads and bridges are crumbling. We have a looming retirement crisis because most Americans have not been able to save enough for their old age. We face a whole host of new and evolving diseases. Cyber security threats are increasing. Our public education system is in crisis with outdated facilities, growing overcrowding, and inadequate budgets.

Government is the only institution in the position to deal effectively with these kinds of problems. Conservatives like to argue that virtually all of our nation's problems can be solved by the market or by taking individual responsibility.  But there is little individuals can do by themselves to solve global warming, address disease threats, or reduce economic inequality.  And the market, far from being the solution, is often the cause of many of these problems.  Decisions by businesses to keep wages low, reduce benefits, and get rid of pension plans are major causes of the economic difficulties faced by many Americans. And left to themselves, few industries would spend their money to address the environmental problems they contribute to.

Most Americans recognize that government is a unique and indispensable tool that allows us to pool our resources to solve problems and make the world a better place.  Polls show that over 60% of us want the government to spend more on education and health, 69% favor more generous government aid to the poor, 77% say the government should do all it takes to protect the environmeelent, and 83% favor raising the federal minimum wage.  And these are not just liberals speaking - they include Americans of all political stripes including many moderates and even conservatives. One survey found that 40% of conservatives and libertarians support a larger federal government role in areas like improving public schools, reducing poverty, and developing new energy sources.

We need politicians to acknowledge what many Americans already know: we have big government because we face big problems. And as threats to our common good grow, we need new and expanded government programs to deal with them.


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