Win the war, not the battle of the day ...

Between Congressional projections, the Specter switch, and threats of “creative” use of process to avoid procedural hurdles, there have been bleats of doom and gloom and caterwauling that we don’t have enough Congressmen with “R” by their name to block Obama’s agenda.  This is true, but ultimately this is a small tactical issue, and in focusing on it we ignore the big picture, and the strategic changes that are needed – government won’t be fixed simply by blocking Obama.

There are many problems with Congress and DC – lobbyists and special interests with too much influence, overspending, ever more intrusive legislation, and a growing “nanny state” that chokes growth and constrains the engines of national growth.  While it is cathartic to place the blame on “Democrats” and “RINOs”, we need to face up to reality.  It is not the individuals in Congress that are the root cause of our current malaise, but rather the concentration of cash and power in the Federal government.  Power and money distort ones views and corrupt principles.

As long as lobbyists can get thousands or millions of dollars in government funding and support for each lobbying dollar, there will be lobbyists.  Both the smuggling of illegal drugs and lobbying have similar ROI – if government can’t stop the former despite an actual intent to do so, how likely is it that they will ever truly impact the latter, given that they are themselves the beneficiaries of the lobbying dollars?

Centralized power is also a boon to special interests, as instead of having to fight 50 seperate campaigns against local organizations, they need only fight one.  Instead of having to contend with recalls, ballot initiatives, and other means of popular control, they need only influence a handful of “on the fence” Senators or Representatives to their cause – after all, who even notices a mere $1 billion these days (note to Congress – if you have a spare $1B sitting around please give me a call).

Finally, the current arrangements allow for pandering on a scale that should never have been possible, as they allow us to borrow from international lenders (including a number of poor Chinese families who I’m sure have better uses for their money than propping up spoiled Americans) and pass the bill on to our decendants.  If I could borrow all I wanted and make my neighbor’s sons and daughters pay for it down the line, I’d be phenomenally popular too!

The solution to these problems is not to find better people for Congress (which the Founders clearly understood), but rather to structure the system in such a way as to minimize these conflicts of interest in the first place.  We need to drive to strip power wherever possible from the Federal government and return it to the states – only then will we see a long-term solution to the current morass of DC.

Returning power to the states returns competition to the system – no longer would there be a winner takes all system that once passed can never be changed.  Instead states can take different tacks, and citizens can vote with their feet and dollars if a state is on the wrong track.  States are also far more constricted in their ability to deficit spend – they have no guarantee from their printing press and thus end up evaluated as any other investment by investors, rather than as a super-safe investment.  They also don’t have the ability to hide taxes through inflation, meaning that citizens are going to be taxed to support the “rights” they claim their government must provide.  States would need not only to provide most funding from today’s beneficiaries through overt taxes, but also need to make those services sufficiently attractive to keep taxholders in state.  Without the Federal government collecting and kicking back to the states, each state has the ability to make meaningful changes to the morass of programs and regulations to attract individuals or businesses to their state.

How might this be done?  I would suggest a massive slashing of Federal rules/regulations with the explicit statement that they are being delegated to state authority as per the Tenth Amendment.  Replace it with a simple statement that the intent to evade state law within a sovereign state through inter-state commerce is a Federal crime.

Secondly, sunset all entitlement programs in one year’s time.  For each such program, any State wishing to continue the program at the state level shall be given all necessary information to administer the program that is in the federal government’s control, and shall be granted a portion of any assets accumulated by the program (such as the Social Security Trust fund) based on the state’s relative population.  Let the states decide which programs are worth the cost, but allow no favorites to be played at the Federal level – a true “going out of business” sale for each and every entitlement program, no exceptions.

We’re well past the point where we can sustain the current slew of entitlements in the long term, and Congress has shown time and again that they’re entirely unable to rein in the beast.  We need to return to the solution that we know works – force people to pay for the benefits they’re using.  Not have “the rich” pay “a little more”, not paying tomorrow for a hamburger today, but paying now for today’s benefits.