Apply the Weight Watchers Test

by Carla Howell and Michael Cloud


"By their fruits shall ye know them."

Apply the Weight Watchers Test to candidates, politicians, referenda and initiatives, proposals for changes in government, and political advocacy groups. Use it to determine which ones advance Big Government and which ones make government small.

Politicians and Candidates

Politicians pretend they're for limited government, for small government. They pretend they're on our side.

How can you tell the difference between "fool's gold" and true gold? How can you tell the difference between BIG GOVERNMENT candidates and small government candidates?

Use the below table to evaluate candidates for office. Candidates who meet or who indicate they will meet one ore more criteria in the left-hand column of the Weight Watchers Test Criteria below are Big Government politicians. If they meet any criteria on just one issue, expect their votes and actions overall to serve to make Big Government bigger. Their actions in favor of Big Government will almost always offset anything they do to keep Big Government in check or to shrink it.

Candidates and politicians who have only one Big Government issue often treat it as their prize issue and work aggressively to advance it. He or she is almost surely a supporter of Big Government and will vote for bigger budgets, new and expanded Big Government Programs, higher taxes, and/or more public debt. They will gladly compromise and vote to increase spending in other areas to get the funding they seek for their pet Big Government Program.

But candidates who have met (if incumbents) and who pledge to meet all of the criteria in the right-hand column all of the time are small government candidates. These are the only candidates whose primary goal for running for office is to make government small. They are the only candidates who offer any hope of shrinking Big Government.


Weight Watchers Test Criteria

Candidates who meet ANY of these criteria

Candidates who meet ALL of these criteria
are Small Government

Vote "yes" on today's Big Government budget

Vote "no" on today's Big Government budget

Vote "yes" on a budget bigger than last year's

Vote "no" on any budget bigger than last year's

Add new laws, programs, regulations, and rules that expand Big Government

Oppose new laws and new Big Government programs

Vote to keep wasteful, failed, no-win Big Government programs

Vote to remove wasteful, failed, no-win Big Government programs

Reform old, bad laws and regulations

Remove old, bad laws and regulations

Vote for fake "tax cut" bills that boost tax revenues

Vote against fake "tax cut" bills that boost tax revenues

Permit increases in tax revenues collected by the IRS or state tax collectors

Vote to immediately and dramatically shrink taxes and tax revenues

Use big words and complex bills to advance their Big Government agenda

Use small words and simple bills to give us small government NOW

Referenda and Initiatives

Most of the criteria in the above table can also be applied to referenda or ballot initiatives.

Any ballot initiative that would have the same effect as a politician acting in accordance with any of the Big Government criteria in the left hand column will, if passed, expand Big Government. If you want small government, vote against it.

Beware the claims of spokespersons for referenda and initiatives. Like Big Government candidates, they pretend they're for "limited government"; for "smaller government". The pretend they will "save taxpayers money" by making government "more efficient". They pretend they're on our side.

For example, Massachusetts proponents of a ballot initiative to force socialized medicine on citizens and taxpayers convinced their petitioners of the absurd claim that their measure would actually cut government spending. Petitioners told prospective signers that it would save them taxes! But if this measure passed, it will send the burgeoning government spending levels in Massachusetts through the roof - and/or externalize those costs by mandating them on employers and individuals! It will cost taxpayers much more.

Any ballot measure that mandates new spending or regulations is a Big Government ballot initiative.

Any ballot measure that forces, coerces, or bribes more people to participate in a government program is a Big Government ballot initiative.

A small government ballot initiative is one that lowers overall government spending; cuts government mandates, regulations, or power - and in no way expands them. If it's a "tax cut", it cuts the total amount of taxes the government takes in - not just taxes for a particular group. It unequivocally shrinks Big Government from its current size. If you want small government, vote for such small government initiatives.

If a ballot initiative is complicated and its impact is unclear, it will very likely serve to make Big Government bigger. Unless you are read the full text of the law, carefully analyze it, and verify that it will shrink the power, spending, size, and/or scope of govenrment, it is either a Big Government initiative or it is irrelevant to the issue of big versus small government. In most cases, vote against it in order to make government small.

Be careful not to fall for misleading attacks from opponents of small government initiatives who aim to discredit them. For example, the major opponents of the 2002 Massachusetts ballot initiative to end the income tax claimed that if it passed, property taxes would have to go up to make up for it. But there was nothing to dictate raising the property tax. In fact, proponents of Ending the Income Tax stated that this was just a first step towards small government. Later steps would involve cutting - not increasing - the property tax. The ones who claimed property taxes would have to go up were the very ones who would try to raise the property tax. But it is completely within their power to keep property taxes as current levels, or to lower them. If the legislature and governor repealed unnecessary and destructive state mandates, many cities and towns could shrink their budgets overnight and allow property taxes to shrink dramatically - with or without the repeal of the income tax.

Political Advocacy Groups

Groups that support any actions listed under the left-hand column above are Big Government.

Groups that support only actions listed under the right-hand column may be small government. But you cannot tell whether a Political Advocacy Group supports big or small government by applying the Weight Watchers Test to their policy recommendations alone. You must also apply it to the politicians they promote or endorse.

It does little good to call for tax cuts if you're helping to elect candidates who will vote to raise taxes. Or who will vote to increase spending. Or vote to expand the size, scope, or authority of Big Government.

Note that many political organizations call themselves "tax-cutters" or expose waste or failures of government, and so they appear to support small government. But they support Big Government candidates. They endorse and fund-raise for candidates who vote for Big Government. Who vote for bigger budgets. Who serve, on net, to make Big Government bigger. Organizations that endorse, support, or fund-raise for Big Government politicians help to make Big Government bigger.

To know where a political organization stands, you must find out which candidates they support. Then carefully apply the Weight Watchers Test to both their policy recommendations and those candidates.

You can also get a clue about whether a group supports Big Government or small government by identifying key players in the organization. If any of them were ex-staffers of Big Government politicians, or were part of a Big Government campaign or advocacy group, they probably continue to support Big Government today.

A Word of Caution

If a candidate (or a spokesperson for an initiative) claims to shrink government spending, taxes, or regulations, DON'T JUST TAKE THEIR WORD FOR IT! Be sure they have PUBLISHED their claim on their web site and in campaign literature.

A whispered promise from a politician is a sign that they don't intend to keep that promise. It's a sign that they are pandering to you and afraid of opposition they would face if they went public.

A whispered promise is no promise at all because it creates no mandate for them to fulfill that promise if elected.

Note that whispered promises do work all the time - for expanding Big Government. But they don't work for shrinking government because you need a huge, huge mandate, i.e., a large number of popular votes attached to a campaign that explicit promises to shrink government, to pull off any reduction of government. Any candidate who runs on a weak or "hidden" promise to cut government will be powerless to stand up to the armies of special interests that will lobby daily to expand government once he or she is in office.

Votes cast for a candidate or initiative that expressly, publicly calls for shrinking government creates that mandate. Votes cast for a whispered promise create no mandate at all.

An easy way to test whether candidates want small government is to ask them to take the Small Government Pledge for Candidates. If they refuse to take it and to publicize their pledge - or to publicize equivalent campaign promises - then they almost certainly will serve to make Big Government bigger if elected.

Once a candidate has published his or her campaign promises, scrutinize each claim to ensure it passes the Weight Watchers Test: does it make Big Government bigger, smaller, or keep it the same size?

For incumbents, check their record in office! If they haven't offered it already, ask their campaign for a published record of their votes, bills they co-sponsored, and any other key actions they took. Carefully check whether their past performance, and their voting record in particular, is consistent with their claims.

If they refuse to disclose their voting record to you, vote against them. They're hiding something they don't want you to see.

Also, check out the candidate's past political affiliations and activism to see if they have participated in any Big Government campaigns, initiatives or policy groups. For example, did they campaign for another Big Government politician who votes for bigger budgets? If so, this is a sign that they will vote Big Government. They have already actively supported it.

While many candidates and spokespersons use language to portray themselves as tax cutters, fiscal conservatives, government whistle blowers, or advocates of "smaller government", beware! We estimate that 99% of all politicians, 98% of all political advocacy groups, and 70% of all initiatives and referenda on ballots across America today are BIG GOVERNMENT. Keep this in mind while you investigate their claims.

Your careful analysis and your consistent vote AGAINST EVERY Big Government candidate and initiative and FOR ONLY small government candidates and initiatives will help weed out imposters - and pave the way for true small government choices.

To learn more about how to decipher political claims and proposals, read The BIGGIB Glossary and Government Budget Shell Games.

"Holding the Line on Government"

Note that politicians, ballot initiative spokespersons, and policy advocates who call for "holding the line" on government spending, taxes, regulations, or authority, usually condone, if not outright support, Big Government. Holding the line on government keeps Big Government big. Unless they consistently avoid condoning existing Big Government programs, spending levels, and taxation levels, their statements end up legitimizing and justifying them.

Typically they will say things like, "We wouldn't think of cutting all these wonderful government services and hurting the poor, or the elderly (or whomever is now being 'served' by government). We just oppose adding any more government." Such language perpetuates the myth that to be for Big Government is to be on the "right side" - which serves to fortify and sustain Big Government.

More importantly, holding the line on Big Government does nothing to shrink it. Without generating excitement and a voter mandate for small government, hold-the-line advocates are powerless to counter the powerful forces of Special Interests and incumbents who drive for more Big Government. Hold-the-liners usuallly fail miserably to hold the line at all. Big Government gets bigger.

The candidates and small government advocates who pass the Weight Watchers Test with flying colors are the ones who proactively, boldly, and proudly call for dramatic cuts in government. These are the ones who can generate excitement, activate supporters, and get small government voters to the polls. Who can tip the scales and move us in the direction of small government.