Calibration

Today, the Minneapolis Star Tribune republished a column by Michael Gerson, a neo-conservative columnist with the Washington Post.  The column’s headline gives away the gist of the piece,

Government, per se, is not the problem: The founders left room for continuing calibration. Republicans must accept this.

Gerson argues that any opposition to the growth of government is not legitimate.  He writes,

The Federalist founders did not view government as a necessary evil.

In 1909, Federal spending accounted for only 2.48 percent of the economy.  One hundred years later, 2009 (Barak Obama’s first year as President), Federal government spending as a share of the economy had soared to 25.17 percent of the overall economy.  In a century, government has literally grown 10 times in size.

Republicans were ok with Federal government spending as 1/25 of the economy (1917).  Republicans were ok with Federal government spending as 1/10 of the economy (1935).  Republicans were ok with Federal government spending as 1/5 of the economy (1975).  But when Federal government spending hit ¼of the economy, Republicans balked, and for that, they cannot be forgiven.  For Gerson and many others, to question the continued growth of government spending is to question the existence of government itself.

The debate is not whether or not we should have a Federal government, but just how massive a Federal government is sustainable.  As I’ve discussed before, we are “calibrating” ourselves into oblivion.