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A Voice from Fly-Over Country
February 12, 2009

The 12-Step Cure: Can We Take It?
by Robert L. Hale


“We’re going to have to jump-start this economy. That’s going to cost some money,” Barack Obama said on January 7, 2009. That comment came from one side of his mouth. From the other we heard, “We committed to changing the way our government in Washington does business, so that we’re no longer squandering billions of tax dollars on programs that have outlived their usefulness or exist solely because of the power of a lobbyist or an interest group.”

The question is which is it going to be? You can’t have it both ways. I hope what we are hearing is simply more meaningless political rhetoric while federal business goes on as usual.

Nearly 40 years of unabated federal growth initiated by the “Great Society,” foolish programs, rules, and regulations got us into this mess. The American public, with few exceptions, has elected representatives incapable, inexperienced, and ill-equipped to provide the leadership this country needs and deserves. Instead, we have elected people who pander to polls and special interest groups and who lack, almost to a person, the background, experience, and courage to make responsible management and leadership decisions.

What successful corporation would hire Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Orrin Hatch, Mitch McConnell, or Trent Lott to actually run or manage their company? None. Why? Because none has the experience or background to do so. Yet, voters have “hired” these individuals to run the largest and most complex “company” the world has every known.

The unfortunate truth is the president has even less experience or background to run this country than the congressional leadership. Of course, it could be argued our elected leaders surround themselves with “experts” to help them make good decisions. If only this were true. A brief look at the “experts” shows they are for the most part panderers and political junkies. The reality is frightening. Remember that the “experts” were in charge when we got into this mess.

While these frank comments will be discounted by those they describe and their supporters, it is easy to demonstrate their accuracy. All we have to do is to look around — at the financial mess, the health care mess, the education mess. Or we can look at the energy crisis, the Social Security debacle, the endless foreign entanglements in which we are caught up.

Federal debt on every American is now more than $60,000 and growing by $3,500 each year, excluding interest.

Congress and the president would like us to believe they are working on a solution to the problems our nation faces. However, the solution they propose pours gasoline on a fire already burning out of control.

So, what is the better solution? It is quite simple but painful: Put the federal government on a 12-step program.

1. Immediately stop deficit spending -- no matter how painful.
2. Cut 15 percent from the federal budget (not 15 percent from the growth but 15 percent of what was budgeted last year).
3. Begin to repeal every federal rule or regulation that does not prohibit or punish a common law crime.
4. Abolish the U. S. Department of Education (education belongs in the hands of local school boards and not federal bureaucrats).
5. Adopt no-nonsense zero-based budgeting for the entire federal government.
6. Abolish all campaign finance laws and replace them with a single requirement
— all campaign contributions (hard and soft money) must be reported within 72 hours of an election.
7. Close 90 percent of our foreign military bases.
8. Limit the number of federal employees to the current number.
9. Reduce federal employment 25 percent over the next eight years.
10. Give the president the line-item veto.
11. Impose a mandatory three-year prison term on any elected official or government employee (federal, state, or local) who takes a bribe or extorts from a citizen in exchange for performing his duty or responsibility.
12. Prohibit the federal government from engaging in anything it is not specifically permitted to do constitutionally.

Each and every one of these 12 steps is necessary and will happen one way or the other. They will happen in a planned and orderly manner, or they will happen as our fiscal meltdown is happening. They will be disorderly, exceptionally painfully, and no one will know when or what the next unpleasant surprise will be. If we do not take charge of the process, the process will take charge of us.

Are those we have elected up to the task? Only time will tell. Is the task difficult? Yes! Impossible? No.

If we fail, we can expect 20-percent unemployment, hyperinflation, a further devalued dollar, street riots, and a dramatic decline in our standard of living.

Are these predictions far-fetched? I really hope they are. However, the people who got us here are still in charge. Unless we replace them or force them to take these steps, they will continue taking the wrong ones. The consequences are not difficult to predict.

A Voice from Fly-Over Country archives


A Voice from Fly-Over Country is copyright (c) 2009 by Robert L. Hale and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. All rights reserved.

Robert L. Hale received his J.D. in law from Gonzaga University Law School in Spokane, Washington. He is founder and director of a non-profit public interest law firm. For more than three decades he has been involved in drafting proposed laws and counseling elected officials in ways to remove burdensome and unnecessary rules and regulations.

See a complete biographical sketch.

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