December 28, 2009 1:03PM

No Time for Basics

Roger Pilon touches on a crucial aspect of the most recent terrorist incident to strike the nation. Federal policymakers spend the vast majority of their time mucking around in properly state, local, and private activities, leaving them little time to spend on core federal issues such as defense and security.

There is little hard data to illustrate the point, but it needs much more public discussion. Do we want the president of the United States spending his time with briefings on Wall Street salaries and the advantages of windmill power, or on the growing Iranian nuclear threat?  

For members of Congress, each new federal program has stretched thinner their ability to deal with truly national problems because their attention is diverted trying to grab a share of spending from thousands of federal programs for their districts.

Federal expansion has created an “overload” on federal decision making capability. Before 9/11, most federal policymakers ignored the increasing threat of terrorism. Even after 9/11, investigations have revealed that most members of the House and Senate intelligence committees do not bother, or do not have time, to read crucial intelligence reports. Recent expansions in federal control over health care, energy, education, and financial industries will make these problems worse.

In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge argued that the growing system of federal subsidies needed to be cut because it was “encumbering the national government beyond its wisdom to comprehend, or its ability to administer” its proper roles.  Unfortunately, the problem has got much, much worse since then.