Government Spending

The best way to explain why government spending should be as minimal as possible it to go back to the father of our country. George Washington stated "Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." I could actually just end right there and feel like the point has been made, but let me elaborate a bit.

One of government’s most intrusive activities is taxation and one of government’s most visible activities is some kind of spending. Think about it, you probably didn’t get a speeding ticket last year and you certainly didn’t get arrested, but I am certain that every single one of you paid some form of tax last year. All you had to do is buy a Snickers bar and you send a few cents to government in the form of sales tax. On the other side of the coin (literally) you are the beneficiary of government spending every time you drive on a road, get a drink of water from your tap, or send your child to school.

That all sounds pretty good, but the question is, at what point do we draw the line? In some cases it's pretty obvious. The government paves the road up to your property line and you put in whatever driveway you want. In other cases there’s not such a clear line. Should the government pay for school lunch? How about breakfast and dinner? Should we have a government pre-school? What about college? How much of that should be government subsidized? And back on that first side of the coin again, just what kind of taxes do we impose and to what degree? Should we use tax policy to drive certain behaviors? A simple sales tax, for example hits everyone to some degree, but it does reward frugality. A flat income tax also hits everyone somewhat the same, but a progressive tax tends to hit higher income earners harder.

One thing is clear, money is power and the power to tax is force. So my underlying philosophy is not one of let’s spend because its sounds like a good thing and let’s tax heavily enough to bring all the money we need for that spending. Given all the requests I’ve seen in my time at the legislature I can guarantee that this kind of an attitude would quickly break the bank. The better course is to keep taxes to a minimum and let people keep as much of their hard-earned money as possible. That also means that government programs should be only the bare necessities--primarily what people can’t do for themselves. We certainly aren’t perfect at this, but Utah does a lot better than most states.