The Era of Small Government is Over

Americans are finally waking up to the biggest Republican con of them all: the small government con.

Ever since the 1980s, Republicans have used a strategy former Reagan budget director David Stockman called “starving the beast.”

The thinking behind this strategy is pretty simple.

First, you cut taxes to “starve” the “the beast” (the government) of the revenue it needs to survive.

Then, when people start getting angry because the government can no longer afford to work the way it should, you propose a solution: cut spending.

Instead of feeding the beast even more, you say, we should trim it down to size, make it lose some weight.

And so the cycle continues.

Now that the government physically can’t afford to do its job because you’ve cut most of its revenue sources and because it doesn’t provide the services it used to provide because you’ve slashed away at budget after budget, the people get even angrier with the government and government employees.

The lines at the DMV and the Social Security office get longer and longer, schools disintegrate, and people blame the government workers for it, not realizing it was Republicans who cut the workforce to the point where government can barely do its job.

Eventually, they become so upset that they start thinking, like Reagan, that government is the problem, not the solution.

And so what do they do?

They demand even more budget cuts and even more tax cuts until the “beast” -- otherwise known as our government -- is finally dead.

Our commons and government functions - from Social Security to Education - can then be privatized and sold off to the highest bidder, usually whatever local billionaire has bankrolled the Republican Party in his area.

Pretty insidious strategy, right?

You bet, and it’s still being put to work to devastating effect in red states like Louisiana, where Bobby Jindal’s massive tax cuts for the rich have left the state with a $940 million budget shortfall this year and put it on the path towards a $2 billion shortfall in 2017.

The situation is actually so bad in Louisiana right now that the state has started slashing away at everything from the public school system to sewage cleanup, and is even preparing to make massive cuts to the agency that investigates child abuse.

That’s right, the agency that investigates child abuse!

Meanwhile, the supposed economic benefits of Jindal’s starve the beast economic plan are nowhere to be found.

What’s going on in Louisiana is the equivalent of economic terrorism, and it’s downright anti-American.

It’s the exact opposite what our Founders like George Washington wanted.

They may have been revolutionaries, but the Founders believed in the power of government to do good for “We the People.”

In fact, they wrote right there in the preamble to the Constitution that they were establishing the republic to “promote the general Welfare’’!

Today’s Republicans, however, don’t believe in promoting the general welfare.

They’re ideologues who’ve been running a gigantic scam on the American people for the past 30 years.

They want to destroy government to enrich their wealthy friends and donors.

They’ve successful as this in large part because they’ve used dog-whistle racism to make their billionaire-friendly economic policies more attractive to voters.

Reagan advisor Lee Atwater described this process in pretty blunt language back in the 1980s.

In other words, "small government" is simply code for "no more assistance to poor people, particularly poor people of color." Meanwhile, they're massively expanding government, particularly in the military and in subsidies to billionaires and wealthy industries like pharma, big ag, and fossil fuels.

This con worked for decades, but Americans are now starting to figure it out.

If the candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders prove anything, it’s that Americans are sick and tired of the era of so-called small government and want to go back to the times when government worked for everyone, not just the few.

Bernie Sanders is very explicit about wanting to do this, but so too is Donald Trump once you get past the bluster and glorified infomercials like the one he gave last night after winning the Michigan primary.

The mainstream corporate media chooses to ignore it, but the major pull of Trump’s candidacy is his rejection of Republican economic orthodoxy.

He wants, for example, to undo so-called free trade and is very open about wanting to protect Social Security.

The fact that he can run on this platform and dominate the nomination process of a party that is against it 100 percent, proves once and for all how little actual support there is for so-called “conservative” small-government policies.

We already knew that was the case on the left, and now we know it’s true on the right as well.

The era of small government is rapidly ending, and Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are killing it.


larrybuckp's picture
larrybuckp 7 years 12 weeks ago

I can't sat I disagree, but while I believe Bernie would restore sanity, I don't know what Trump really believes. Bernie will have a tough time getting things done unless dems have a majority, and Trump would have both parties and the Constitution against him.

Willie W's picture
Willie W 7 years 12 weeks ago

Hope you're right Thom. I'm OK with Trump if for no other reason then other Republicans want him out bad. I think he's bold enough to find a way.

John Pranke's picture
John Pranke 7 years 12 weeks ago

A President Sanders would most certainly use his "Bully Pulpit" to direct the National dialog and pull the curtains down on the T-GOP obstructionists. Seems like Pres Obama pulled out the Populist rhetoric when his popularity was dropping but actions on those policies was pretty weak. I don't expect that kind of "pragmatism" from President Sanders, he knows there is no time for that.

larm007's picture
larm007 7 years 12 weeks ago

That's why we have to replace any open congressional seats with progressive democrats as well. Got our work cut out for ourselves. And I don't think Trump will find a friendly congress. They haven't been working for the people for years.

RJ Schundler's picture
RJ Schundler 7 years 12 weeks ago

FDR raise taxes so high that revenue drop, the following year FDR lower taxes and revenue increased but not buy much ..... Truman, reverse FDR's policies to the extend that he could to prevent a post war depression like we had after WW1. Then IKE keep things stable as we recovered from the war. Senator Kennedy ran on reducing the tax rates to increase the revenue, got elected, and it worked. Then more tax revenue came in as the result of lower rates! Then Reagan lower taxes more and more revenue came it as rates were lower. Now there is some point where lower rates will bring lower taxes. But the problems is how will Berni or Hillary pay for these programs the want to offer .... The simple truth is that we need to cut programs, reform our tax base form employment to goods and non-renewables ..... The real question is who will do what needs to be done .... the Dems do not seem to have anyone willing to address the issue .... The question is do the Reps?

larm007's picture
larm007 7 years 12 weeks ago

They don't want Bernie in, as well. That should be a plus if you're even thinking about him.

Chapwillie's picture
Chapwillie 7 years 12 weeks ago

Most Reagan Democrate, before 1980, were a New Deal Dixiecrats (whether southern or northern). The New Deal part never changed for them; they just wanted "smaller government" for those lazy, shiftless coloreds who didn't know their place. Turns out, the Republican Party is colorblind: they slash benefits equally from all races and creeds--all except the super rich, that is.

Kend's picture
Kend 7 years 12 weeks ago

America is going into debt a trillion dollars a year. That is far from starving the beast. Obama a as president has put your country what??? 9 trillion more in debt. Has it really helped? No new roads. No new bridges, where did it go. Here we privatized the DMV, so they are everywhere. They cost the government nothing and no line ups. Did the same with highway maintenance local farmers etc look after their local areas costs much less and they do a great job. Less government isn't so bad.

Donald Campbell's picture
Donald Campbell 7 years 12 weeks ago


James Hansen stated that the government role as a result of climate change is the "GOP's worst nightmare" because of tremendous necessary expansion. This could be a factor in their opposition to proposed legislation to mitigate climate change, Carbon-Fee-and-Dividend, for example. See:

cccccttttt 7 years 12 weeks ago

Rather than small versus big, the question is better framed at what level

of government: local, state, or national.

Clearly the EPA and the military should be national.

Gun laws and health care are open for debate.


cccccttttt 7 years 12 weeks ago
Qoheleth 7 years 12 weeks ago

When government is done away with, you have Somalia, where government was drowned in a bathtub 25 years ago. Is that what they want here? I call attention to the three earthquakes in 2010--The one in Haiti, were there was no government involvement in bujilding codes, was devastating. The one in China, where government runs everything, was also devastating. The one in Argentina, where private enterprise build the buildings with strict government regulations, was pretty mild. Think about it.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 7 years 12 weeks ago

Shrinking government as in privatization has actually ended up costing we the taxpayers far more. Conversion to private for profit always costs more. If you don't believe me Just look up private military company pay vs regular government Army pay as an example.

Why do we pay several times more than the rest of the world for healthcare?.....because we still have for profit health insurance. This is another great example where government expansion would save us all thousands.

The much bigger problem with small government privatization is in the way the our tax money gets distributed. The CEO's/ owners of the contracting companies bogart by far the lions share of the funds received. It's that way with most private for profit businesses regardless of government funding. Then the owners cry poverty, get tax breaks, and ship their jobs to the slave markets overseas.

Government jobs are far more fair with pay equality. You will never see the head of a govenment agency making 400 times more than his employees....not even close! LOL

Education, healthcare, and energy, should all be sectors owned by we the people, and not for profit unless you want to go to jail.

End free trade and make unionization mandatory! Wouldn't that be terrible, the one percent might have to share a little wealth with those who create it.

wslifko 7 years 12 weeks ago

It will be interesting to see a President Sanders calling out the GOP on their platform built of red herring. Something HRC would never do as she is only interested in maintaining status quo. This wouldkeep her wealthy donors happy and feeding her and Slick Willie's kitty.

Loren Bliss's picture
Loren Bliss 7 years 12 weeks ago

Mr. Hartman, your essay on the Ayn Rand/downsize-government scam -- perhaps the most viciously effective propaganda tool the capitalists have yet developed -- errs in one grave way.

It omits the fact the Democrats, starting with President Carter, are as much the scam's guilty perpetrators as the Republicans. The Democrats merely hide their savagery behind the benign-sounding label "neo-liberalism."

Apart from that deceitful omission, your essay is undoubtedly the most accurate and coincise description of the process I have yet read.

Instant-RunOff-... 7 years 12 weeks ago

Unfortunately fools who embrace the "small government" scam are only getting in return a massive unregulated "shadow government". This shadow government has now become the master whereas our elected government has become its slave. The almost unbelievable wealth that is funneled into PACs, lobbyists, legal-lobby firms, giant mainstream media conglomerates, think-tanks, supra-national organizations, international private regulators, NGOs, Globalist International Bank regulators, trade dispute regulators, institutes and even privately funded university research. All this massive wealth concentrated in these elitist organization all stems from incredible power given to private banks that we allow to create the western world's money supply out of thin air. As International Bankster Baron Nathan Mayer de Rothschild (1840-1915) stated:

"...“I care not what puppet is placed on the throne of England to rule the British Empire on which the sun never sets. The man that controls Britain’s money supply controls the British Empire, and I control the British money supply.”

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 12 weeks ago

Kend! Do you know what "facile" means? Look it up, in the dictionary, under that entry there will be your picture. In fact, you would have to vastly improve your argument just to make it facile.
Kend, G.W. Bush's tax cuts remain in place. The Republican congress continues its stranglehold. The debt and deficit are BECAUSE of "starve the beast". The tax cuts were Grover Nordquist's concoction to "get government down to the size where [he] can drown it in the bathtub" he wanted "a few states to go bankrupt just to teach them a lesson".
Kend, kindly do your homework and don't talk when you don't know what you're talking about.

Instant-RunOff-... 7 years 12 weeks ago

Most people are totally unaware that we have a private debt-money system. If our governments did not borrow massive amounts of money, the money supply would shrink causing a major depression. Without debt there would be no money. And without expanding debt, the money would not be created to make the interest payments on that debt which must also be created by more borrowing. That is our idiotic, privately owned, privately controlled monetary system.

End the debt-money system. Make all money a regulated creation of a rational public institution, whose purpose is to provide for the broad needs of the national economy and its citizens - the 99%. And government can fund itself exclusively through taxation and public money creation, no need for debt = private money creation.

Kend's picture
Kend 7 years 12 weeks ago

. Facile. Me? I just stated facts. Didn't America go about a Trilion a year in more debt under this administration? Look at the debt you have could you imagine what those interest payments could get you. Health care, education, more fire / police. Sorry buddy I think it's you that needs to do some homework. I respect your option a lot but your wrong here. You have more debt per person then Greece.

Instant-RunOff-... 7 years 11 weeks ago

So America is a trillion a year in added debt. T-bills are running 0.5% interest. Debt is money, money is debt. Pay the interest - the debt is never repaid - it can't be repaid - that would collapse the world economy. US taxpayers are still paying interest on the debt incurred by the confederacy buying cannons during the Civil War. That's the system either embrace it or call for change to a non-debt based monetary system.

If there was a world war tomorrow, WWII style, not nuclear armageddon, our governments would be "borrowing money" i.e. Banks would be creating money like there is no tomorrow. Suddenly shuttered factories would be reopened, Detroit would have full employment, tanks, planes, ships, bombs, transport vehicles would be rolling off of the assembly lines. Production of not only military hardware but civilian goods would increase drastically. The fabricated 5% unemployment numbers would become minus 30% unemployment because so many who aren't recorded as actively looking for work would return to work. Meaningless, stupid jobs like slinging burgers and telemarketers would drop like a stone, people would be needed in the war industries.

The magic of debt money - private money creation. Can easily be done much more efficiently without debt, positive money, no bombs, no wars needed.

97% owned - Economic Truth Documentary:

How is it that lack of money, the only resource that can be created at will, forms the main obstacle for addressing society's problems?:

Colorado Bruce 7 years 11 weeks ago

Thom, you've got it just right! Take a look at Minnesota vs. Wisconsin, where Minnesota raised taxes and encouraged unions and it is doing far better than Wisconsin which did exactly the opposite. See:

I re-call reading the history of Canadian Medicare-for-All. In Saskatchewan Medicare was initiated. The opposition attemped to starve it and say it was a failure. Citizens kept the taxes up to support it. Finally other provinces saw it worked if you give it the right amount of tax support. Now Medicare-for-All is a system Canadians are proud of. They know, too, it always needs to be tweeked to keep it working...but never, never kill it.

Colorado Bruce 7 years 11 weeks ago

When the population keeps rising, how can you have smaller government?

jproctor67's picture
jproctor67 7 years 11 weeks ago

@ RJ #5 Your statements are a little off and your command of the English Laungage and spelling mistakes throughout your post made it hard to fully comprehend what you were trying to say. All of the bluster of Ronnie Raygun tax cuts were completely over shadowed by all of the Tax Increases during his years. Ike is the only GOP POTUS in recent history that didn't try to destroy America, he put America's infrastructure on track to meet the needs of a growing America. Every GOP POTUS has had to raise taxes to recover from the needless cuts.

jproctor67's picture
jproctor67 7 years 11 weeks ago

Kend you need a lesson in how the US Government works, the only part of the government that can spend money is congress, all spending bills must start in the House and when a spending bill is passed it is sent to the Senate for their approval, when the House and Senate agree and both have signed the bill it is sent to the POTUS for signing or veto. The last few years the debt has been the lowest per year and much lower than a $Billion per year, you need to find the true facts and not just repeat GOP talking points

jproctor67's picture
jproctor67 7 years 11 weeks ago

Kend you need a lesson in how the US Government works, the only part of the government that can spend money is congress, all spending bills must start in the House and when a spending bill is passed it is sent to the Senate for their approval, when the House and Senate agree and both have signed the bill it is sent to the POTUS for signing or veto. The last few years the debt has been the lowest per year and much lower than a $Billion per year, you need to find the true facts and not just repeat GOP talking points

Kend's picture
Kend 7 years 11 weeks ago

67 a good leader would not have let this happen. Because the nation had no confidence in its leadership the government had to spend trillions on make believe jobs to make it look like the economy was doing ok.

Run off. Some day interest rates will go up and all that debt will come back to haunt you.

Bruce. Minnesota is creating jobs by borrowing and spending. Again sooner or later someone has to pay for it. One of my suppliers just left left Mini to go to S Dakota where the races are cheaper.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 11 weeks ago

Kend, the definition of a facile theory or argument is one that "appears neat and comprehensive only by ignoring the complexities of an issue". It was GEORGE W. BUSH that ran up that debt! He only completely irresponsibly evaded personal ownership of it by keeping the two wars off the books. Obama did the responsible thing and put them on the books so then fools, facile clowns and liars (can't say which of those you are) started blaming HIM for the debt.
The story of Greece is much more complex, as you fraudulently refuse to acknowledge, as well, involving Wall street banksters and their manipulation of that relatively small country's economy.
Kend, you are either stupid or only playing stupid, that is, either stupid or you're a liar and a fraud. Clearly it's the latter, nobody can be THAT stupid.

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 7 years 11 weeks ago


Please be gentle on Kend

He's just stupid or playing stupid and by stating more grants too much credit

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