Unintended successes of big government

Published 9:45 am Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Some folks worry that our government is getting too big. I worry that it won’t get big enough.

Maybe I better explain.

The era of limited government is long gone in America — especially if the birds currently running the joint have their way.

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I figure if we can’t beat them, we may as well join them.

Sure, I’m aware of the law of unintended consequences — that government programs frequently achieve the opposite of their stated intent.

Take poverty. LBJ unleashed a flurry of government programs to eliminate it. The way he went about it, though, encouraged more people to be dependent — and poor.

Take ethanol. It is an alcohol made, mostly, from corn. Corn used to be bountiful and cheap — until the government began subsidizing ethanol, which perverted the corn market, which caused food costs to soar, which caused riots in the poorer parts of the world.

Take the housing bubble. The government decided people without good credit or steady incomes should have mortgages, too. Congress made Fannie and Freddie, quasi-government organizations, buy the risky loans these folks took out.

Such government meddling perverted the marketplace. The twits on Wall Street exploited the perverted incentives for short-term gain — until the bubble burst and the economy exploded, and now, all of us are in a world of hurt.

I’m fully aware of the damage big government can do — fully aware of the unintended consequences of big-government programs. Which is how I arrived at a master strategy to make big government work for us.

It would appear that President Obama and his team aren’t fully sure how to unfreeze the credit markets. I offer a perfect big-government solution:

Obama needs to establish a new presidential task force whose mission is to further freeze credit markets. We’ll give the group a $1 trillion budget to spend any way it sees fit to reduce economic output, increase unemployment, cause more bankruptcies and so on.

I’m confident the markets will thaw and the economy will boom inside of six months.

Once we get our first “unintended success” under our belts, we can begin picking off the other challenges our country faces, such as global warming.

Now I know the debate is not settled on whether man is causing the Earth to warm, but I have a novel idea to reduce the use of fossil fuels, anyhow: appoint Rep. Barney Frank to lead another government panel whose task is to dramatically increase the output of CO2.

Surely Frank will be as effective at that task as he was at protecting Fannie and Freddie, which he made buy the risky loans that turbocharged the rickety housing bubble.

I’m confident America will see a bigger reduction in CO2 emissions than we saw, as our plants were shuttered, during the other Depression.

By this point, Americans will start believing in big government again. That will give us a chance to finally attack poverty the right way.

We can appoint Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to head a new agency whose task is to grow poverty and create dependency. We won’t mind spending another $1 trillion, though, because Pelosi will cause welfare rolls to drop faster than my 401(k).

That success will really bolster the spirit of the American people. Americans will be eager for big government to tackle a host of other matters.

Health costs soaring? We’ll appoint a government task force to drive them up further.

Too many people in jail? We’ll appoint a government task force to encourage theft, drug use and violent crime.

Too many out-of-wedlock births? We’ll appoint another government task force to double the number.

As our successes mount, there will be no problem our big government solutions cannot fix.

All we need is a leader who is courageous enough to do what is really needed — a leader who believes in big government and is willing to spend like no president has ever spent before him.

I think we finally found our guy.

Tom Purcell is a humor columnist nationally syndicated e-mail him at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.