What Big Government Costs You
by Carla Howell
Big Government takes about $4.8 trillion from Americans in taxes - every year. About half of every dollar you earn ends up in the coffers of federal, state, and local governments.
Regulations force individuals, businesses, political organizations, and charities to satisfy thousands upon thousands of government mandates - at our expense. Big Government Regulations directly cost Americans at least $1.5 trillion, and possibly $3 trillion - or more - every year. The indirect cost is immeasurable. These regulations force you to pay higher prices for the goods and services you buy. They take away many of your choices. They cost you a lot of precious time.
Big Government seizes the assets of Americans directly: by eminent domain, victimless crime seizure laws, and frivolous government lawsuits. And indirectly: by printing money and diluting the money supply and by various restrictions on the use of land and other private property. These "takings" cost Americans hundreds of billion of dollars - every year.
But these are just the monetary costs of government.
Freedom is another cost. Big Government restricts or prohibits many things you might like - or need - to do. This diminishes your enjoyment of life. It thwarts your ability to care for and support yourself and your family. It deprives you of the satisfaction and dignity of running your own life.
The harmful effects of Big Government
are yet another price you pay
- and probably the biggest price of all. The "unintended consequences" of thousands of Big Government Programs touch many areas of our lives, often with devastating consequences.
You pay a huge price for Big Government. So does everyone you know and love.
Taxes you pay
Harmful effects of Big Government
It doesn't have to be this way
Taxes You Pay
[Government's] great contribution to human wisdom...is the discovery that the taxpayer has more than one pocket.
- H. L. Menchen
Big Government taxes you at almost every turn - no matter where you live in the United States. While policies vary by region, the average American pays dozens of different taxes in the course of a year, even if you live in the lowest-tax regions.
Here's a partial list of the taxes you pay to Federal, state, and local governments in the United States - some of which, e.g., the income tax, you may pay to more than just one level of government:
- Income taxes on wages
- Income tax on dividends and interest
- Income tax on capital gains
- Social Security tax (FICA)
- Unemployment tax
- General sales tax
- Gross receipts taxes
- Business income taxes
- Business and sales permits
- Workers compensation tax
- Unemployment tax
- Contractor taxes
- Occupation, business, NEC, public utility, and corporate licensure fees
- Death (estate) taxes
- Gift tax
- Meals tax
- Soft drinks tax
- Margarine tax
- Documentary and stock transfer taxes
- Property tax on real estate
- Personal property tax on items such as computers and boats
- School bus and other K-12 school fees (attendance mandatory)
- State college and university fees (attendance required to legally practice many professions)
- Turnpike, bridge and tunnel tolls; tollbooth transponders
- Airport and airway taxes
- Gasoline and fuel taxes
- Insurance premium tax
- Alcohol tax
- Amusement taxes
- Cigarette tax
- Livestock tax
- Pari-mutuels (gambling tax)
- State lottery gambling profits
- Water and sewer assessments
- Motor vehicle registration and license fees
- Motor vehicle tax
- Auto excise tax
- Aircraft and boat registration fees
- Fishing, hunting, and gun license fees
- Cable TV tax
- Long distance phone tax
- Electricity tax
- Room occupancy (hotel) taxes
- Court costs
- Fees for copies of government documentation
- Taxi medallions and other vehicle operator taxes
- Ferry, bus, and train taxes
- Building, equipment, and land use permits
- Health permits
- Liquor license fees and liquor tax
- Rental car tax
- Dump permits
- Marriage, birth, and death certificates
- Adoption fees
- Penalties and interest on late payment of taxes
Thousands of federal, state, and local government bureaucracies control how we live and how we do business. They impose mind-boggling regulations and mandates on Americans every day. Just the regulations that control Medicare alone take up over 100,000 pages.
Government regulations are especially costly for businesses which must comply with volumes of code such as those issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Americans for Disabilities Act (ADA).
While businesses bear the brunt of government's regulatory burden, you pay for it in the end. When Big Government bans or restricts a business which you want to patronize, it effectively bans you. It prohibits you from buying certain products or services, or from buying them at a competitive market price. It forces you to buy instead from businesses that are politically connected at a higher price with less of what you want (e.g. lower quality or inconvenience).
Prices for food, utilities, housing, medical care, insurance, college tuition, and just about everything you buy in America costs much more than it should. Prescription drugs would cost a small fraction of today's prices if government regulators left the pharmaceutical companies alone - removing both their priveleges and government-imposed burdens - and allowed them to be directly accountable to their customers, independent industry watchdogs, and media watchdogs for drug safety.
If you're an employee, government mandates lower your pay. When government forces businesses to fund mandated family leave or health care benefits or unemployment compensation, the money to pay for these things does not fall from the sky. It eventually comes out of your paycheck. Even if you benefit from these perks, you probably pay much more in lower wages than you gain in occasional benefits.
Even worse, these regulations put extreme competitive pressure on U.S. companies. As the cost of doing business in America goes up, more businesses move offshore - and take American jobs with them.
In addition, you pay for plenty of regulations that affect you directly. Consider the money and time you spend dealing with the following government regulations:
- Filing taxes, saving receipts, dealing with tax accountants and lawyers, and undergoing audits. Americans spend six billion hours every year (1) doing paperwork for taxes.
- Earning degrees, taking classes, and taking exams mandated by government to enter a profession or to continue practicing your profession. Even when you're already perfectly qualified and don't need more training than you have. Or when you can acquire the training you need as an apprentice or by cheaper, faster, and more effective means.
- Renewing your driver's license, automobile registrations, and other business and recreation licenses.
- Lobbying to get your child into the least bad school that he or she is required by the government to attend; structuring your life around the schedule and requirements of your child's public school.
- Complying with regulations and filling out forms required to buy, sell, refinance, or rent a home. This includes bringing your home into compliance with building and septic system codes, even when those codes provide no benefit to your safety or to the environment.
- Getting a building permit to build or modify your home, even for things as trivial as replacing a broken dishwasher.
- Fulfilling government-mandated requirements to get a divorce decree, even when you and your spouse have already agreed on settlement terms.
- Becoming a US citizen.
- Navigating the complex bureaucracies of the Veterans Administration.
- Ensuring that a loved one gets good care at a state-run, state-controlled, and/or state-funded hospital or nursing home
- Going through security at an airport, even as these elaborate operations routinely fail to screen instruments more lethal than a box cutter.
This is just a sampling of the many ways that Big Government regulations deprive you of time, money, energy, and privacy. The list is long and growing.
You used to be free of many of these government requirements, or at least they took a lot less time and money than they do today.
Inflation is often erroneously referred to as the inevitable increase in prices over time. But most of the rise in prices we see is not a natural economic phenomenon. Without government meddling, prices would stay fairly constant over time. It's only because the federal government puts more money into circulation that prices keep going up - and your wealth keeps going down.
When the feds print more money, it creates free wealth for itself - at your expense. It dilutes the currency. More money competing for the same goods causes prices to rise. Your buying power, the value of your dollars, gets weaker and weaker.
Every time the government grows the money supply by printing new money, it is, in effect, a tax on your wealth.
In recent years, the federal government has increased the pace by which it devalues your dollars. Astonishingly, as of March of 2006, it no longer even compiles and reports the size of the money supply it creates. This makes it difficult to calculate the rate of inflation, and thus to know how much value your dollars are losing. By hiding the impact of federal monetary policy in this manner, politicians will overspend all the more - and devalue your dollars all the faster.
Years of cumulative inflation since the Federal Reserve was formed in 1916 have greatly diminished Americans' wealth. A dollar today can buy what only five cents could buy in 1916. There's a growing risk that the government's enormous public debt, welfare obligations, and continued runaway spending could trigger hyperinflation and an economic depression or prolonged recession. If this happens, your wealth could evaporate overnight, and your prospects for making money could be grim. We could see a level of poverty we never imagined was possible in America.
"Governments all over the world have embarked upon unprecedented inflations the disastrous effects of which can only be surmised. To entrust our money to government is like leaving our canary in trust with a hungry cat."
- from The Causes of Inflation by Hans F. Sennholz
In addition to taking your wealth through inflation, the government has several ways of taking your property without printing money or taxing you.
Zoning laws, building codes, "urban renewal" projects and authorities, historical societies, and conservation laws - under the auspices of local, state, and federal governments as well as the United Nations - prohibit the use of your property. This can stop you from building a new house, creating a business, or expanding an existing one - which can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars in one fell swoop, often with no compensation.
Under search and seizure laws, the government can take or destroy your property, sometimes without a warrant. You may be forced to prove your innocence - rather than the government forced to prove your guilt. There have been cases where innocent people were forced to spend more on lawyers to clear their records and get their property back than the value of the confiscated property.
A newer form of takings is government lawsuits such as those levied by state attorneys general against tobacco companies and food producers deemed to be selling "junk food". The lucrative settlements extracted by government lawyers cost companies millions of dollars, forcing them to raise the prices you must pay for their products.
The lawsuit awards do not go to the alleged victims of cigarette-caused cancer or obesity-caused diabetes. Rather they go into the coffers of Big Government. While the funds are initially earmarked for "public health" and other dubious benefits that pretend to help alleged victims, politicians soon renege on these promises and spend the money on whatever they feel like. Lawsuit awards quickly become just another source of revenue to feed Big Government.
Politicians have greatly expanded the use of eminent domain - once reserved for transportation needs such as roads and airports. Politicians have forced homeowners to sell their property for such capricious "needs" as to build a furniture store in New York or to tear down a beautiful residential neighborhood in Ohio because they declared it "blighted".
If a politician uses eminent domain to take your property, you may or may not receive market value compensation for your loss.
Big Government destroys our cherished freedoms. Here's a partial list of the freedoms Big Government has taken away from you, many in just the last 100 years:
Your right to medical privacy
Your right to private phone calls, emails, and other forms of communication
Your right to affiliate (or not affiliate) with whomever you choose
Your right to speak your mind
Your right to publicize your point of view through paid ads and pamphets
Your right to defend yourself or your family from criminals
Your right to a fair trail and due process
Your right to protect your property from seizure without a warrant
Your right to walk around at night without being hassled by police
Your right to get on a subway or enter an airport without being searched
Your right to control what food or medicines you put into your body
Your right to educate or school your children as you see fit
Your right to refuse vaccination of your child, even if there is scientific proof that the vaccine may be harmful
Your right to adopt children or to be adopted
Your right to go into business - without prohibitive government-imposed costs, red tape, and restrictions
Your right to practice any profession for which you are fully qualified
Your right to hire the most qualified employees for your business, church or charity and to pay them wages based on the value of each employee's contribution
Your right to financially support candidates for office of your choosing
Your right not to financially support candidates you oppose
Harmful effects of Big Government
Big Government Programs often make things worse for the very people they're intended to help. Big Government Programs create new problems. These are the Second and Third Laws of the Five Iron Laws of Big Government. They apply to almost every Big Government Program - every government program that goes beyond the essential functions of protecting our life, liberty, and property.
There are many ways that our lives are compromised, diminished, and even destroyed by Big Government Programs. You or someone you know has probably suffered at the hands of Big Government in some of the following ways:
- Lower wages
- Lost or devalued property or diminished wealth
- Lost jobs
- Lost career opportunities
- Financial insecurity
- Invasions of privacy
- Ignorance and illiteracy
- Dependency and indignity
- Social intolerance, divisiveness, hate
- Higher crime rates
- Pollution, deforestation, and other environmental damage
- Disease, trauma, pain, and death
- Intimidation and terror
It doesn't have to be this way
Just as removing a cancerous tumor allows the body to heal, repealing, dismantling, and ending Big Government Programs - and making government small - will allow you, your family, and your loved ones to enjoy the happiest, healthiest, and most prosperous lives you can have in your days on this earth.
We have the power to end Big Government Programs that hurt us. If we stop voting for Big Government politicians - who make things worse - and only vote small government. If we vote for candidates and ballot initiatives that shrink Big Government - rather than for politicians and initiatives that expand it.
Do you want to make sure your vote never contributes to the damage caused by Big Government? That you never add fuel to the raging fire of Big Government? Do you want to be sure your vote always advances small government? Take the Small Government Pledge today!
(1) According to George W. Bush in his 2004 Republican nomination acceptance speech