Cal Thomas: Government incapable of making lives better

10/01/2013 5:58 PM

10/01/2013 5:58 PM

It’s Obamacare activation and government “shutdown” week in Washington, D.C., where the consequences of misplaced faith in government are everywhere. Still, “true believers” remain faithful that Obamacare will be the exception to government’s past failures in achieving big goals.

There are examples galore of government’s inability to do things well and at reasonable cost, but that doesn’t deter those who continue to believe government can solve every problem.

The U.S. Postal Service wants to raise the cost of a first-class stamp from 46 to 49 cents in order to cover a “precarious financial condition.” That will only encourage more people to stop sending mail, all but guaranteeing another rate increase down the road.

The White House announced a $300 million aid package for Detroit, a city in which Democratic rule, high taxes, out-of-control spending and years of corruption precipitated its financial collapse.

The Federal Housing Authority announced Friday it is taking $1.7 billion in borrowed money from the U.S. Treasury to cover projected losses in reverse mortgage programs. It can do so without congressional authorization. Actors peddle reverse mortgages on TV all the time, and we’re told they are “guaranteed” by the government. What could possibly go wrong?

The Heritage Foundation has compiled a long list of government programs that have failed to live up to their advertised goals, including:

•  Head Start. According to the Head Start Impact Study, in virtually every category, the program for preschool children has failed to achieve its stated goals. The study found “that the benefits of participating in Head Start almost completely disappear by first grade.”
•  Food stamps. This is one of 80 welfare programs going to one-third of Americans that will cost an estimated $12.7 trillion over the next decade without substantial reforms.
•  Social Security. This is the “untouchable” entitlement, which needs reform as much as or more than any other federal program. Women especially get a raw deal with Social Security. Again, as the Heritage Foundation has noted, “Among retired workers, women received $300 less than men in Social Security benefits in 2010, collecting only $1,023 in monthly benefits on average. Women are more likely than men to lack all of the necessary 35 years of payroll tax contributions to qualify for full benefits, as many take time off from the workforce to care for children and elderly parents. And those who don’t have a full work history are even worse off. Many seniors receive benefits below the federal poverty level.”

Add to this the annual ritual of federal agencies spending millions of “leftover” dollars before the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30 and you understand why so many are cynical about government’s track record of achievement and cost containment.

Space does not allow a full accounting of all federal agencies and programs that should be eliminated or reformed. And yet their budgets are auto-renewed each year, many programs even receiving an increase in the amount of taxpayer money they are allowed to waste. There is no congressional requirement that these agencies and programs prove themselves worthy of our money. And, once spawned, government programs are virtually impossible to kill.

Given so much evidence of government’s inability to make our lives better, what makes anyone think it will suddenly become competent running Obamacare? Only individuals, not government, can improve their lives by making right choices. Too often, government adds to our burdens with additional debt. It’s the one job government does well.

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