All Commentary
Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Few Thoughts On What Must Be Done

We must stop judging the character of our government officials by the words they utter or their preachments about helping people with the earnings of others. You can self-righteously declare your solidarity with this or that “needy” special interest and beat your breast about “compassion” until the cows come home and still, at the same time, be a crook, a charlatan, a demagogue, a shirker, a short-term thinker, or a snake-oil salesman.

So when statists denounce spending cuts, especially reductions in “sacred cow” entitlements, we must explain not only why their position is lousy economics and poor planning for the future. We must question their very moral fiber. They should be embarrassed by what their stance says about them. They should have a guilty conscience about perpetuating a system that jeopardizes the financial solvency and the freedoms of not just the present generations but of those innocent and yet-unborn. We need to ask them why they can’t muster the courage to do what’s right. We have to call them on the carpet for their apparent willingness to fund failed and unaffordable programs for some constituency’s short-term gratification. We need to ask them why they are such eager participants in massive theft that takes from the hard-earned treasuries of private people and transfers those earnings to the squandering wastrels of the federal treasury. If they have a conscience, let it be pricked now before it’s too late.

To those in power whose pending decisions will set the course of America for years to come: Stop thinking as though almost every problem in every country is a reason for you to put your own countrymen’s lives and treasure at risk. Read the Constitution not just one day of the year, but at every moment when you are considering a measure without first asking yourself, “Is this really my responsibility? Is it really within the power granted to me?”

Few things speak “hypocrisy” more plainly than calling for peace publicly but promoting war on the personal, economic and political lives of others. Remember that every time you spend more, you don’t get the money by selling cookies like the Girl Scouts do. You deploy force against your fellow citizens. That raises moral issues and is something which you must stop doing in such a cavalier fashion.

Please don’t assume you’re doing your duty by minor spending reductions that leave whole agencies, programs and Cabinet departments intact, only to grow back. Pull out, root and branch, what you or your predecessors shouldn’t have created in the first place. Start with entire departments like Energy and Education, which have neither Constitutional justification nor track records worth keeping.

Stop labeling as “tough choices” major spending reductions when in fact they ought to be the easy ones. The really tough choices are the token nips and tucks that only yield endless whining and future battles. Muster the courage to make the big ones now and you’ll avoid problems later. Don’t torture us with mere tinkerings.

Empowering this Leviathan State we now have, at the expense of your fellow Americans, is shameful, anti-social behavior. It is not what we expect of responsible adults.

Do your duty. Balance the budget—now. Raise no more debt ceilings. If you do these things, you will receive the gratitude of a restored nation and the rewards of a forgiving God. If you do not, prepare to bear the judgment of both.

Jefferson warned us that we must make the choice between economy and liberty or profusion and servitude. Will you who are in power go down in history as leaders who saved their country or as just another crop of barbarians who flung open the gates to their country’s destruction? It’s your call.

Lawrence W. Reed is president of the Foundation for Economic Education—with offices in Irvington, New York, and Atlanta, Georgia.

  • Lawrence W. Reed is FEE's President Emeritus, having previously served for nearly 11 years as FEE’s president (2008-2019). He is also FEE's Humphreys Family Senior Fellow and Ron Manners Global Ambassador for Liberty. His Facebook page is here and his personal website is