January 10, 2017 by Anders Ingemarson
Shortly before the holidays, Mr. Trump expressed his displeasure with the cost estimates for both a new version of Air Force One (4-5 Billion USD) and the Pentagon’s Lockheed contract for the F-35 next generation fighter jet (upwards of 400 Billion USD over its lifetime). At SEPARATE! we find it encouraging that our President Elect takes an interest in government spending. It is one of the three main areas that requires addressing to make progress towards separating state and the economy on both moral and practical grounds (the other two are tax cuts and regulatory repeal).
Both projects may be considered part of the proper role of government to fund the executive branch and the country’s defense respectively. But such spending should obviously be subject to procurement and cost efficiency criteria not unlike what is applied in well-run private businesses. As the chief executive and commander-in-chief in waiting, Mr. Trump has every right to weigh in although his style is somewhat unorthodox (for the office, but perhaps not for him; time will tell if he will walk the Twitter talk).
But the true test for our next President will be his approach to the areas where current federal spending levels and future liabilities matter most—Healthcare (Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP and ACA) and Social Security. The two areas alone count for about 50% of all federal government spending or 1.8 Trillion USD annually; without reform it will continue to grow due to the unfunded liabilities caused by an aging U.S. population.
Unlike defense spending, both areas are improper functions of government in a society that has as its founding moral principle to protect the individual rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness of its residents; in plain language, robbing Peter/Petra to pay for Paul’s/Paula’s healthcare and retirement spending is immoral and the goal of reform should be to abolish federal involvement outright.
The challenge may appear enormous. However, in practice it is not that hard a nut to crack. As we have previously discussed, abolishing Social Security and returning control of retirement planning and financing to individual Americans may be accomplished over a period of some 50 years without undue burden on those who are currently dependent on the system for their daily bread. (Gradually lower benefits and increase the age for people not yet in retirement—the further away from retirement you are, the later and less you will be able to collect).
Similarly, as we have also argued, abolishing the dependency on the federal government for our healthcare needs—reforming the “safety net” with a combination of tax incentives, health insurance deregulation, and charitable initiatives—may also be accomplished over a period of time in an organized fashion.
No, the critical part is not the practical implementation. It is the moral conviction that returning control of retirement and healthcare to individual Americans is right. That abolishing the dependency on the federal government for our survival is just. That separating state and retirement and state and healthcare is moral. And that helping those in need is a private matter, not to be delegated to government bureaucrats.
The signs are, unsurprisingly, that Mr. Trump does not possess the moral conviction it would take. Reince Priebus, set to become the White House chief-of-staff, announced the other day that “Donald Trump does not want to meddle in Medicare and Social Security.” And when it comes to unshackling Americans from the ACA (ObamaCare), there are already ominous signs that the Republican controlled Congress will, true to its nature, steal defeat from the jaws of victory by insisting on repeal and replace, instead of abolition combined with individual rights respecting deregulation in the healthcare and health insurance fields.
Tweeting, loud mouthing and deal making alone will not make a dent in the welfare state spending armor. Without a moral backbone, Mr. Trump will be a sheep in wolf’s clothing, and Republican cowardice a prominent feature of the current congress. The result is that government healthcare and Social Security spending will continue to grow without interruption—and the shackles of the welfare state continue to tighten.