HILL: Politicians are the problem, not government

President Ronald Reagan speaks at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., following swearing in ceremony at his inauguration, Jan. 20, 1981. Show, from left, behind the new president: House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill (D-Mass.); Vice President George Bush; Sen. Mark Hatfield; unidentified woman; Barbara Bush, wife of the new vice president; Nancy Reagan, the new first lady; outgoing President Jimmy Carter and outgoing Vice President Walter Mondale. (AP Photo)

Ronald Reagan was wrong about government. At least partially. 

In his 1981 inaugural address after pounding Jimmy Carter in the largest electoral rout of an incumbent president in US history, Reagan announced: 

“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time-to-time we’ve been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people.  

At the time, America was suffering under 12% inflation; 21% interest rates and massive unemployment close to 9%. “Government by an elite group” of long-term career Democrats in Congress such as Speaker Tip O’Neill and the inept Jimmy Carter were the problem, not the concept of “government.”  Career politicians wanted more government control of everything but everything they did was wrong and nothing they did worked. The American people finally wised up and threw Democrats out of office across the nation. Democrats lost the White House; 35 seats in Congress and twelve Senators to give Republicans their first majority in the Senate since 1954.  

The main difference between candidates can be boiled down to this: “Does a candidate want to use the coercive power of government to pass more laws to make you do something ― or not?” Democrats typically favor more government; Republicans generally don’t ― or shouldn’t if they are conservatives at heart. 

It was a revelation to an entire generation back then to hear someone like Reagan say government was the problem. No one before him had so eloquently spoken about how important it was to let free people make their own decisions without a ton of government interference and regulation. Milton Friedman’s seminal book “Free to Choose” changed the minds of millions of Americans and should be read and re-read by every person today. 

However, it is not enough to assert that “government” by itself is the problem. We need “government” or else we will have chaos where no rules or norms apply.  Witness the pro-Hamas demonstrations, BLM protests and homeless tent cities in San Francisco to see what happens when no one enforces the law. 

We need government in the form of police to protect our lives and property. We need government in the form of a well-armed military to defend us against terrorism and foreign threats. We need government to protect our borders from being overrun by people trying to get into the United States illegally. We need government to maintain a safe transportation system.  

But we don’t need “too much government.” People who love more government ― typically liberal Democrats ― always turn to passing more legislation in often futile efforts to solve this or that problem. On top of that, many of them don’t have any understanding or appreciation of business, tax law or accounting which compounds the damage of their otherwise well-intentioned dreams. The Biden Administration has the fewest number of people with significant private sector business experience in senior positions in modern American history ― and it shows. 

H.L. Mencken, noted early 20th century American journalist and satirist once said: “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” 

Modern politicians try to get voters to focus on incendiary issues instead of telling us how they will solve the major issues we face such as the national debt, crime and the economy. If Democrats prevail by making the 2024 elections about hatred of Trump and abortion instead of the bread-and-butter issues which affect every American family, then the second Biden term will be an even worse nightmare than the first. 

Reelecting a career politician such as Biden who consistently fails at producing good results for the nation at large is like extending the contract of a football coach who has had four consecutive winless 0-12 seasons. 

President Reagan should have said: “The people who run government are the problem ― so stop electing and reelecting candidates who don’t know what they are doing.”