Public Opinion and Self Government

My mother and I were in a discussion the other day on why government workers don’t see any fault in the way they accept subsidies or pay raises without taxpayers’ consent. This is because it is their kickback. Many people fail to realize that almost every person in America is receiving some kind of kickback from a government policy or program, whether that policy be costly or cost-saving for taxpayers.  Each issue in public policy is of course going to have at least a few supporters, but what happens when its supporters are exclusively benefitting economically from the existence of the policy?

Let’s take a look at some of the more obvious examples.

 The average federal workers’ compensation in the last 10 years has skyrocketed to well over $100,000. Understandably, federal workers would be in favor of these salary rates and ardently against cutting federal salaries. This is an obvious example because federal workers working to lower the average federal worker’s salary would be working to cut their own salary.

But what are some less direct examples? Take agricultural subsidies and land management programs.

Farmers are known to be independent thinkers and typically against big government, however the Farm Bureau and other major agricultural lobbies have been working to maintain the budgets for agricultural subsidy and soil preservation programs for decades if not over half a century. This is because most farmers, like all of us, can appreciate an occasional free lunch. Agricultural subsidies have been linked, however, to rising prices of some fruits and vegetables, obesity, spread of diseases like E coli, and world poverty caused by depressed foreign commodity markets.

I don’t want to be too rough on anyone, so let’s move on to some more examples.

 I had a colleague that served during the Vietnam War as a pilot. To this day he is open that he never saw ground combat, yet received combat pay for his entire tour of duty in Thailand (a green zone) because he flew into Vietnam (a war zone) to deliver goods once every four weeks. Surely you say, that wouldn’t be allowed today, right?

Wrong. Military combat pay for an entire month can be paid to any armed services member who enters a combat zone for as little as one day in a given month.  My dad bore firsthand witness to this when he served a four month tour of duty at a military base in Djibouti (jə-ˈbü-tē) which was considered to be in the combat zone.  Service members stationed outside of Djibouti would visit the base on a mission lasting only a few days and receive a full month’s worth of combat duty pay. This particularly annoyed service members stationed in Djibouti because just for going to the base for just a few days, the soldiers would receive the same combat duty pay as those stationed and working every day in the 130 degree heat of the African summer.

While some military members may be opposed to the policy, other service members might naturally be in favor of it because they justify it with the fact that their lives may have been in danger during their short mission into a combat zone.  This is also an easy way for them to gain additional compensation just because their mission took them temporarily into a combat zone, despite the cost to taxpayers and future taxpayers.

Although these are obvious policy-public servant relationships, what happens when the government props up an entire market?

Tax preparers would be ardently against simplifying the tax codes and tax lawyers would be opposed to closing loopholes. A simplified tax code would render HR Block and TaxSlayer unnecessary. People being able to file their own taxes would mean thousands if not a million full-time and part-time jobs being lost.

How about police? Why would police be in favor of making various illicit acts legal. The drug war costs taxpayers $40,000,000,000 (that’s $40 billion) each year not including the staffing and response costs to local police departments, yet legalization would mean that drug use and possession would no longer be a crime. This in turn would mean less offenses for police officers to respond to and that a smaller police force could be used.

Education? Superintendents and the state university chancellors will never be in favor of voucher programs, privatization, or charter schools because a wholesale switch to that system would render the status quo wasteful middle-management system of school districts unnecessary. Not to mention that a wholesale switch would be inevitably made if parents were given a choice between public education versus school choice and innovation.

In the end, almost everyone winds up being in favor of one policy or another because they have an underlying economic dependency on that policy. Government continues and will continue to grow because even when anti-government forces try to unite, they will soon realize that their membership wants to get rid of “most government programs except the (insert pet program here) program or policy.

The majority of our nation is made up of people who are directly or indirectly feeding (or are close to someone who is feeding) off the existence of big government. Whether it be as big a budget item as the defense contractors overseas, or as small as a semi-annual CoLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) at the local city government, or even just the annoying meter maids’ salary waiting to give you a ticket, almost everybody gets bought in one way or another.

In a government, “by the people, for the people, and of the people,” we have become our own lobbyists. K St. has become your street because most of us want to keep one or two programs going despite the number that no longer fits on your wide-screen TV.

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