What is the right response when someone suggests a course of action that you know to be harmful? If you're wise, the proper response is "No," of course.
But for too many years - decades even - there haven't been nearly enough U.S. lawmakers and presidents who have said "No" to wasteful, unwise and even unconstitutional spending.
Instead, the answer has been a resounding "Yes" to all manner of spending - from expansion of entitlements to imposition of ObamaCare socialized medicine to growing farm subsidies to federal support for unpopular Amtrak rail service. Hardly anything is too big or too small to stake a claim to federal tax dollars, and calls for real reform are swiftly denounced.
The results today are painfully obvious. We have a $14.3 trillion national debt. We pay hundreds of billions of dollars in annual interest on the debt. Entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security are on a path to bankruptcy. Unemployment is high, and inflation is on the rise, reducing the purchasing power of the American people's earnings.
Considering our nation's unchecked spending and the problems that spending has caused, wouldn't it be great if one (or both!) of the two major political parties were the "party of no"? That is to say, wouldn't it make us an economically stronger nation if lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, as well as the president, picked up the difficult but necessary habit of saying "No" whenever they were confronted with spending that is wasteful, ill-advised or unconstitutional?
Some Democrats like to criticize the Republican Party by labeling the GOP the "party of no." That's because at least some Republicans are trying to stand against the spending that threatens to bankrupt the country.
But neither Democrats nor Republicans, as a whole, can really claim that they're the party of even basic fiscal responsibility, let alone a really strict "party of no." While Republicans generally favor bigger spending cuts and lower taxes, too many of them have done too little to rein in spending when they had the opportunity.
We did notice an encouraging series of proposals recently, however, from Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., on job creation. What's interesting and welcome in the proposals is that they are not so much about getting Uncle Sam to "do more" to create jobs, but about getting Washington out of the way of private-sector job creation. In short, Alexander is urging America to say "No" to things that kill jobs.
Among his suggestions were:
• Simplifying the outrageously complex tax code. The American people are forced to spend countless billions of dollars and hours on tax compliance each year - money and time that could otherwise be spent productively in job-creating ventures.
• Removing federal roadblocks to producing more domestic energy. That would create U.S. jobs and reduce our reliance on oil imported from unstable or hostile nations. It would also reduce gas prices.
• Denying the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to regulate "greenhouse gases." Congress rejected legislation to regulate those emissions, so the Obama administration declared that the EPA would impose regulations anyway. But the rules would raise energy costs and destroy jobs.
Alexander understands that the main thing Washington can do to "create jobs" is avoid placing needless obstacles in the way of the free market, where real job creation occurs.
That ought to be self-evident, considering that unemployment is high despite massive federal "stimulus" spending and intrusion in the market.
Unfortunately, some remain convinced that the solution to problems caused by our big federal government is even bigger federal government.