Chris Graham: Smaller government, with a catch

I don’t personally have any issue with the notion that government needs to be run more efficiently and run more like a business. Anybody with experience managing a business or organization knows that there are inevitably inefficiencies that can be accounted for and corrected to make things run more smoothly.

A problem I have is with politicians who claim to be small-government types on the one hand then on the other hand going out and pushing big government in the form of social engineering.

Case in point: State Del. Dickie Bell and his supposed zeal for small government. Bell told a town-hall audience this week that he’d like to see state agencies adopt a zero-based budgeting method touted by some conservatives as the panacea to growth in government spending.

Aside: Which would be great, except that the great bulk of growth in government spending comes in the area of entitlements – Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, veterans benefits. Very, very few elected officials are willing to even consider even restraining the growth in entitlements because doing so would be at the least political masochism and at worst suicide.

More columns from Chris Graham at TheWorldAccordingToChrisGraham.com.

But I digress. So Bell has this zeal for small government, as evidenced by his zeal for zero-based budgeting. And then he tells the town-hall folks, according to The News Virginian, that he plans to introduce legislation in the 2011 Virginia General Assembly to:

  • Encourage prayer at public events and meetings
  • Make English the state’s official language
  • Create a special “In God we trust” license plate
  • Grant unpaid leave to state representatives

That last one has a personal touch for Bell, who lost a battle with the Augusta County School Board for paid leave from his teaching job related to his legislative work.

What in the name of small government is there to any of the above from Bell? It looks to me that what Bell is doing here is creating more work for Steve Landes, who you might remember made it one of his key areas of focus as a state legislator to set up a process for finding outdated and frivolous state laws to have taken off the books.

I know quite a few local Democrats who poke fun at Landes for those efforts, basically saying that Landes could find a lot more worthwhile pursuits to take up his time representing the people in Richmond, but I’ve actually been behind Landes on that from the get-go. From my own experience in business and specifically what we do in business, I think the more streamlined you can be in terms of the rules you have to play by, what you’re trying to present to potential clients or customers, et cetera, the better off you’re going to be.

I support Bob Goodlatte and Emmett Hanger in their efforts to streamline the federal tax code and the way state and local governments assess and collect taxes. Even if the result would be a dollar-for-dollar return on monies collected in the new system, as I’d suspect there would be, think of the savings for individuals, families and small, medium and big business in terms of compliance.

I guess what I’m saying here is, Small government isn’t starving government. Some partisans have made a living out of demonizing government even as we’d all have to concede that we wouldn’t have national defense and internal security and roads and public education without the coalescing of interests and means to pay for it and administer it and maintain it, and that’s what government is, ultimately.

Beware, I’d warn, those who preach smaller government out of one side of their mouth and then out of the other offer up myriad ways for government to grow its influence over daily life.


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