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Time for Politicians to Think Small

Drew Alexander | Sep 6, 2012, 2:07 p.m.

Memo to presidential and congressional candidates: Keep your big ideas to yourselves. And if you have a messianic complex, go off into the wilderness; you don’t belong in public office.

A hallmark of the American character is to think big, to take on the impossible and make it possible. From Edison to Ford to Bell, from Gates to Wozniak to Jobs, American history is rich with the revolutionary developments pioneered by an individual mind harnessing an idea and persistently pursuing it to fruition.

But when politicians are thinking big and acting on it, the outcome is usually disastrous. Our financial house is in disorder today because politically motivated grand visions have brought us spectacular failures and monumental debt.

In the 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson and a Democratic Congress hatched the Great Society, and its premier legislative initiative, the War on Poverty. Now, nearly 50 years and $17 trillion later, the initial objective of eradicating poverty and reducing dependence on government has been quietly discarded and has morphed into a welfare colossus calculated to redistribute the wealth of private enterprise.

More recently, the 2,000-plus-page Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — commonly known as “Obamacare” — is a boondoggle of the first order. Its cost to the American taxpayer has not yet been fully calculated, but estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to be $2 trillion in the first decade of the bill, starting in 2014. This is the legislation that, astonishingly, no lawmaker read before being passed by a Democrat-controlled House and Senate in 2009. However, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi set our minds at ease, saying, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it.”

I want the next president and the next Congress to think small. Focus on housekeeping chores, such as coming up with a budget, cutting spending, eliminating wasteful government programs and departments, replacing the present convoluted income tax code with a simple flat tax, and lifting nonsensical regulations imposed on American businesses.

We’ve had enough of grandiose schemes funded on the backs of the American taxpayer. We don’t need another “great” something or other, or a “war” on anything, coming out of Congress.

Nor do we need an ersatz savior in the White House to take us to some fanciful peoples’ paradise. We should know by now that false prophets and charismatic figures with golden tongues mesmerizing a populace with lofty language and extravagant promises make for poor, if not destructive leaders.

What we do need is a down-to-earth chief executive who respects and abides by the principles established by the Founders in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and champions the merits of capitalism and individual freedom. Americans have proven again and again that they can successfully realize their ambitions as long as government does not place obstacles in their way.

So, you folks in Washington, you stay home and attend to the basic housekeeping tasks and leave the big thinking, entrepreneurial moving and shaking where it belongs — with us, the American people.

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