We’ve re-learned a lesson the hard way of late.
The greatest barrier to building small and corporate business success, encouraging economic vitality and broadening employment opportunities is the lumbering hulk of blunt interference that is “Great Government.” The goals may be laudable, but the results are too often otherwise.
Whether as close as a local legislative assemblage or tucked away in one of the massive federal wrens of regulatory over-think, the counterintuitive and counterproductive obstacles to growth and prosperity emblematic of old-school and obstinate bureaucracies were on full display as the year came to an end.
The public humiliation that has befallen both the administration and federal agencies over an inability to ably manage almost any aspect of a controversial health care reform scheme of its own design has illustrated that in a singularly devastating manner. The debacle has played out as an endless-loop real-time infomercial on the limits of government and the perils of too much of it.
Any ultimate legacy of this presidency is destined to prominently include the failure of faith in big and bossy and supposedly beneficent overlords. Setting aside the lost opportunities to move an ailing country and languishing economy forward – a sad and unfortunate result – re-learning that lesson is a good thing.
And re-learn it we did.
Continuing a long-term trend, a record number of Americans view “big government” as a greater threat to the country’s future than “big business” or labor unions. Nearly 3-in-4, or 72 percent, now share that view. Large majorities of all political persuasions – including 71 percent of independents and 56 percent of Democrats — agree. A large majority has held this position since the early 1980s, declining only slightly and briefly following terrorist attacks in 2001 and the Enron scandal in 2002. Government has always been seen as the “greatest threat” in the 48 years of Gallup polling on the question.
With the White House a true believer in ever-bigger government, and a prolific promoter and prodigious promulgator of an all-powerful Wizard-of-Oz bureaucracy, it is no surprise that disapproval of that notion has climbed 17 points during the past five years. In contrast, business is viewed as the greater threat by only 21 percent – the lowest Gallup has measured since 1983.
And our patience is running out.
Presidents rarely recover from the type of plummeting approval numbers and trust deficits of recent months. And with a national leader who seems increasingly hapless and helpless – and mostly proffers apologies and excuses and convoluted explanations designed to fool the gullible or trick-the-truth – expectations that a political recovery is ahead are low. Even political party partisans have largely moved on in embarrassment, shifting to an unseemly early next-election effort. It may be a long three years of uninspired inertia looming.
The foibles and failures of a national administration offer important lessons for local politicians and governments. Not only does stuff-get-done at the city, county and state level unlikely to find fruition in Washington, it is there that practical solutions and sensible approaches are slowly taking root. Lowering taxes, loosening cumbersome regulations and reducing private sector obstacles are increasingly the story of success.
Even the District’s elected officials are tenuously evolving. Never fast or far enough, and with one step forward often followed by two in the opposite direction. Improving enterprise conditions, however, is finally on the agenda, if low on the list. Reducing taxes is increasingly of focus, regulatory reform is under review and a nascent appreciation for a less-fettered business environment as the source of economic development is ascendant.
This measure of progress, more awkward first steps than strides, offers marginal hope for near-term improvement. Given how far and low D.C. has sunk over the years in its nanny-state proclivities and disreputable treatment of job-creators, revenue-producers and urban living-enhancers, even a modest shift in attitude is welcomed.
Let’s hope that the coming year brings more positive change in a new direction.