Dr. Milton Wolf makes an excellent point in his Washington Times piece that sheds light on an often missed aspect of the government budget: Government spending crowds out private investments. Wolf points out the irony in government stimulus spending as well as in President Obama’s agenda to “win the future.” If only we were to spend more government money we could prevail in the global competition with other nations.
Mr. Obama cleverly shifted his language from bailouts to “winning the future” with calls for still more spending, but these are, of course, two sides of the same coin. His lack of imagination traps him in the mistaken belief that new innovations flow from government largesse. With soaring rhetoric in his State of the Union Address, he spoke of Thomas Edison’s light bulb, the Wright Brothers’ airplane and even modern-day Google and Facebook and said, “Our government has provided cutting-edge scientists and inventors with the support that they need,” but it didn’t cross his teleprompter that none of the innovators he cited needed government welfare.
Think about it. When was the last time someone had to be bribed to buy an iPhone or a Ford F-series pickup or a Big Mac? Good products and services follow the “Field of Dreams” rule: If you build it, they will come. Meanwhile, every bailout, stimulus, targeted tax break, subsidy and even “protective” tariff are all forms of crony corporate welfare that are attempts to bribe you with your own money to buy whatever the government busybodies think you need. On the eve of a national ban on Edison’s incandescent wonder, big-government types who call themselves “pro-choice” don’t think you’re smart enough to choose even your own light bulb without them.
Wolf’s piece concludes with an important, but often overlooked aspect on the current budget debate:
Government spending, with all its dismal results, crowds out private-sector spending where true innovation occurs and where real jobs are created. As we free the market, some companies will do well and others won’t, but this is how we redirect our limited resources to where they can be most effective, and that’s precisely how our standard of living improves.
Money in the hands of ordinary Americans is much more effective at choosing winners and losers in our economy than government spending ever will be. Consumers, by trying to get the best bang for their buck, steer resources towards more efficient companies in the marketplace. In the case of government spending, money is often steering politicians to arrange hand-outs and favorable regulations for well-funded, special interests. Government money is rarely effectively “invested.” It is more often merely spent.
This is true in energy as in many other areas as well. Will government subsidies for renewable energy lead us into a cleaner, more affordable energy future? If it is any indication, three decades of ethanol support programs have left Americans several billion dollars poorer with little to show for it other than higher-cost fuel, more emissions, and rising food prices.
It is important to remember that opportunity and prosperity come, not from government, but from American enterprise, entrepreneurship and ingenuity.