My sincere congratulations to President Biden. He comes up with an idea so bad it replaces the #1 pick for the worst federal government scheme of my life.
My guideline for judging federal programs is whether they uphold the fundamental relationship between government and the governed—that of government as servant of the people—or attempt to subvert that relationship by making people servants of government.
Using this test, federal income tax withholding is the government’s gold standard gone wrong. By taking a little of our money at a time from each paycheck instead of hitting us with a gigantic bill, the government is lulling us into complacent acceptance. Additionally, the whole concept of “withholding” resets the default of “this money is mine, and the government must justify taking it” to “this money belongs to the government, and I must justify keeping it”.
But that was before my life.
The worst political implementation I have witnessed as a horrified voter was President Nixon’s revenue sharing plan in which the federal government distributed money to local units of government with few of the usual conditions . It was free money – some $85 billion given out over the program’s 14-year history – and there was jubilation in the country.
Of course, the money given to local units had been taken from local taxpayers in the first place. We were being bribed with our own money and the idea of Washington as a great benefactor was further reinforced. President Roosevelt would have been delighted.
There will always be new ways for Washington to assert its dominance. Here’s Biden with his wonderful promise of student loan forgiveness, maybe up to $10,000 per borrower, maybe $50,000 or even more. The move, it is said, would release the financial anxiety of a certain group at a time of great economic turmoil.
It would also add a bit to the national debt, which is only part of the shortcomings of the plan.
It would be a slap in the face to those who have already moved heaven and earth to repay their loans. It would insult all those Americans who never even dreamed of going to college. It would give people who shouldn’t dream of it the idea to try it anyway, at someone else’s expense. This would cause other debtors, such as owners, to wonder.
And, apart from these concrete results, the plan fails on the very concept on which it is based: do what you want and do not fear the potential negative consequences, because the government will be there to pick up the pieces. All that is asked of you in return is that you will forever rely on his care.
But of course, that means the government picks winners and losers, and while it might decide in your favor today, it could turn against you tomorrow. Live or die at the will of the ruler – isn’t that why we got rid of kings?
I confess that I am not a disinterested observer here.
My parents couldn’t afford to send me to college, so I found a brilliant way to get the government to send me. I joined the army, then I studied thanks to the GI Bill.
It only cost me three years of my life.
Maybe the government would like to cancel this debt for me. All it has to do is add three years to my life. And I don’t want three more years of affliction and seniors. I want three more years of youth and zest for life.
Do you think my expectations might be too high?
Well, whose fault is it?
Leo Morris, columnist for The Indiana Policy Review, is the winner of the Hoosier Press Association award for best columnist. Morris, as an opinion writer for the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, was named a finalist in editorial writing by the Pulitzer Prize committee. Send feedback to [email protected]