Our nation stands in a pivotal moment in its history. Confronted by security threats around the world, it now also faces a financial crisis unlike we've seen in decades.
While Washington debates, challenges mount and solutions become more difficult to find, and this crisis has elevated a debate about something even larger than the financial pit we now find ourselves in.
If you listen closely to the conversations and sound bites from Washington, you will hear differing philosophies - not just about the economic rescue and how to conduct it. You will hear underlying tones of how big the federal government should be and how large of a role it should have in the lives of the American citizenry. And long after the economy rebounds and financial stability is restored, this question will live on and be inserted into future debates.
Thomas Jefferson eloquently summed up the current danger we face, "Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have ... The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases."
The recent passage of the $816 billion economic stimulus package in the U.S. House is much more than a shopping spree equal to the entire tax revenue for an entire year, it is also about how much power the government has over the financial markets and its ability to pick winners and losers in our economy.
For instance, the stimulus bill has $335 million in funding for sexually transmitted disease (STD) prevention programs. This might lead some to ask a logical question like, "Why is the government spending so much money on a program that probably won't create jobs or stimulate the economy?"
The simple answer to this question is - because it has the power to spend as much money on whatever it chooses to.
If you doubt this, read the 647 pages of the House version of the stimulus legislation. It includes $137 billion for 32 brand new government programs, and is loaded with all kinds of projects that have nothing to do with job growth or economic expansion.
I came to Washington with the belief that government, if left unchecked, will enlarge its scope and purchasing power beyond what it can pay for. This means higher taxes and greater financial burdens for American families and small businesses. And if this trend continues, future generations will be left to foot a bill that they can't possibly afford to pay.
So instead of giving more money to the government to spend on slow moving projects that don't guarantee job creation, Congress should lower tax rates on middle income America, allowing them to keep and spend more of their own money. This quick acting tax relief will stimulate the economy immediately and jump-start the markets in ways that government can't. Even Dr. Christina Romer, the President's top economic adviser, conducted research that shows the $478 billion Republican alternative stimulus package would produce 6.2 million jobs as compared to the Administration's $816 billion package which hopes to create just 3 million jobs. That's twice the jobs for half the price.
But more important than the speed and efficiency of tax-relief, it also would give more of the economic power to create jobs to taxpayers and not the federal government. That's the right kind of stimulus and the kind that we need now.
Jefferson was right, and big government will never be the answer to our troubles, financial or otherwise. There is a better way.