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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press The Post Tells Us It's About "the Size and Role of Government"

The Post Tells Us It's About "the Size and Role of Government"

Tuesday, 02 August 2011 05:26

In a front page news article the Post told readers that the debt ceiling battle was really a battle over "the size and role of government." Is this something their mother told them?

I didn't see anyone in this debate arguing for "big government." If there is anyone in the country who supports big government as a matter of principle, they have a seriously losing electoral position.

In the real world the battle is over specific programs. And, apart from the military, there is overwhelming support for most of what the government spends money on -- Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and unemployment benefits -- across the political spectrum. Everyone from liberal Democrats to Tea Party Republicans strongly supports these programs.

In fact, there is only a small minority that really wants to see these programs cut back in a major way. Of course this minority is extremely powerful since it includes much of Wall Street and major news outlets, like the Washington Post.

It helps to advance the agenda of those who want to cut the major social programs to mischaracterize the issue as a debate over the size and role of government. This can create serious divisions among the programs' supporters. However, if the debate is more accurately described as one between people who support social programs and those who oppose them, then the Washington Post's position has much less chance of succeeding.

Comments (3)Add Comment
written by frankenduf, August 02, 2011 9:16
or, it's patently false as the debt ceiling was raised 6x under W with essentially the same players involved- what citizens really don't want is corrupt government, but the orwellian rhetoric deflects that concern through the binary lens of big v small
The Post is right this time
written by Peter t, August 02, 2011 5:40
If you see the fight between the two political camps as a fight about how much government should do and how they can bring government to that size, many of the recent crazy moves and statements make much more sense. The Republican "Balanced budget amendment" contained a little discussed clause that the government should not stand for more than 18% GDP (or a similar number). We could have cut all the cr.p about debt ceilings and triggers and gone right through this, the heart of the matter. Do we want a small government as in the 1920s and before, or a larger as from WW II on? I would opt for the larger one, as I believe that a modern and just society needs a big government, but I accept that others see it differently.
written by jethro, August 02, 2011 9:01
It's not a case of big government or little government, but an effective government. Regulations like Frank - Dodd are not going to stop crooks, they are just going to burden businesses that are legit. Regulations are nothing to large banks, they can easily afford to hire people to sift thru the regs... It is small banks and businesses that are disappearing. So if you want less competition and more big businesses, than vote for regulations... There were enough laws when Enron & Madoff committed their schemes - fraud is already against the law, and the SEC had prior warning on both situations, and they did nothing about it.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.