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The Myth of "The Myth of Big Government"

October 1, 2003

Barbra Streisand recently put an essay on her website titled "The Myth of Big Government" about her thoughts on why there is no such thing as "Big government", as used as a derogatory by conservatives.

Her prime example of the federal government doing "what the federal government does - it helps people in need" is the work the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) does after such events as the recent Hurricane Isabel.

First, nowhere in the Constitution or in the history of the Constitutional Convention can I find where the federal government's job is to help "people in need". A myth from liberals is the static view of society. If FEMA did not exist then the victims of hurricanes would be left to flounder and rebuild on their own. The classic study done on post disaster assistance was after Hurricane Andrew flattened south Florida. The study showed that the Red Cross, the Catholic and other church relief societies all showed up and were operational several days before FEMA ever got there. FEMA's assistance was secondary and in some cases tertiary to the people who lost all. So Barbra, after disasters Americans will do what is needed to take care of our fellow citizens. The presence of the federal government at disasters probably actually dampens people's enthusiasm to help out.

She continues her discussion of "what the government is suppose to for you, the people" by listing schools, firefighters, police, highways, military protection from "outside threats" (when are you off to entertain the troops, Babs?), the Center for Disease Control, national parks, Social Security, and Medicare, and the legal system.

How schools, firefighters, police, highways - all local or state government jurisdictions - relate to why we need a big federal government, I do not know.

The need for the military gets no argument for me, though I bet she does not really realize that she shows support for the military. Ditto with the legal system. No conservative I know of has ever advocated abolishment of the legal system.

Now, let's look at the CDC, national parks, Social Security, and Medicare. Again, nowhere in the Constitution does the federal government have authority to pursue any of these. Not to say, that the issues they are suppose to address are not important ones. Instead of creating a bureaucracy that will grow increasingly benign and ineffective over time, why not legislate enabling statues that allow we, the people, to solve those problems we believe need solving: parks, old age retirement and medical care, etc. Again, Barbra, you liberals believe that if the federal government does not address an issue, the American people will do nothing.

Finally, Barbra states this: "Eventually, we will be forced to have a national discussion about either repealing the (tax) cuts or asking the question: What everyday government spending programs are we really ready to do without?" Ms. Streisand, if you will email me here at www.rightturns.com, I will reply with my list of "spending programs …we really (can) do without."

So Ms. Streisand, I suggest that you spend one month driving your own car, buying your own groceries, applying for your own permits for home renovations, filling up your own gas tank, flying to Virginia and helping with Isabel cleanup, filling out your own tax returns and writing your own tax payment checks, pen paling with a soldier or marine in Iraq, sending to the IRS the difference you would pay in taxes before the Bush tax cuts and what you will pay now after the Bush tax cuts, and then rewrite and repost your "The Myth of Big Government". At that time, I will read it for real world insight.

Sam T. Harper graduated cum laude from Vanderbilt University.  Following a tour in the US Navy and a stint as Operations Manager at Roadway Express, he earned his MBA from Stanford University Graduate School of Business.  He was a contributor to “In Search of Excellence,” the best selling business book of all time.  Sam was also Manager, Economic Planning & Analysis at Sohio Petroleum, Partner and Chief Financial Officer at investment-banking firm Bridgemere Capital, and Chief Operating Officer of the Institute for Contemporary Studies, a San Francisco Bay Area-based think tank and international publishing firm that specializes in self-governing and entrepreneurial public policy.  Sam was a chairman of the San Francisco Republican party and the GOP co-host of California Political Review on KALW-FM in San Francisco.  Sam is currently the co-owner of the Tennessee based Institute for Local Effectiveness Training, LLC – a management consulting, training, and coaching firm.