By Doug Mainwaring
The emergence and rapid growth of the Tea Party movement is due in large part to an increasing concern by taxpayers that our government has strayed too far from fiscal responsibility. As many have awakened from our shared national somnambulism, the electorate’s attention is galvanized by issues once considered banal or trivial, now viewed as grave threats to our country’s security, prosperity and even our national identity. A public that until a few years ago quietly trusted the job that its government has been doing in Washington is now focused like a laser beam on both the role of government and the careers of our leaders.
Tea Partiers’ deepest fears for the future of our nation are being realized in Greece. They see the beginnings of anarchy in a social democracy crippled by enormous budget deficits (13.6 percent of gross domestic product) and a heart-stopping national debt (115 percent of GDP). They see a country saddled with massive, unsustainable, unbearable entitlements. This has caused many to reflect on how our own annual budget deficit and national debt may be taking us down the same path as Greece and the other social democracies of Europe. Tea Partiers and their many sympathizers are well informed: They easily see the connection and are making sound, reasoned conclusions.
In addition to fiscal irresponsibility, there is a second major component of concern for Tea Partiers: government exceeding its constitutional limits. Too much power, money and authority are concentrated in our national government. This is detrimental to the functioning of the individual states and increasingly diminishes the freedom and liberty of the American people.
For a very long time, a majority of those who serve us in Washington have worked under the assumption that the national government is better equipped than any other entity to govern and solve all of America’s problems, and, therefore, bigger government is better. The result has been ever-increasing regulation, unfunded mandates, earmark projects and increasingly toxic entitlement programs, including the recently enacted health care reform law.
But what if this paradigm is ill-formed? What if Americans actually could be better served by being governed and regulated locally to a greater degree? Our national government has taken on a life of its own, to the disservice of those it was established to serve. Perhaps a smaller national government, with many functions returned to the states, would be better.
On April 15, the Contract from America was unveiled at tax rallies held across the country. I co-authored one of the provisions in the contract:
“Create a Blue Ribbon task force that engages in a complete audit of federal agencies and programs, assessing their constitutionality, and identifying duplication, waste ineffectiveness, and agencies and programs better left for the states.”
Our Founding Fathers did not envision a massive, all-powerful, centralized national government, nor was it their intent to lay the groundwork for one in our Constitution. Rather, our current national government exists as it does despite our Constitution. As a result, the national government is too bloated, too greedy, too unaccountable and always hungry for more. Too often, the national government has proved it is inadequate for the task of competently managing its massive programs and exercising good and faithful stewardship over the funds provided to it from the American people.