By Senator Chris McDaniel
“New ideas” is a catch phrase modern politicians love to use in their speeches. But it’s a bit misleading. By “new ideas” they always mean those that flow from the mighty hand of government, not those that derive from voluntary cooperation, and freedom.
Put simply; the phrase never translates to decentralization. To the contrary, in any race for public office, there always seems to be a competition among politicians to see who can fabricate the newest, biggest, boldest, most innovative federal policy ideas, as if such talk would impress voters enough to elect them.
It seems most have forgotten the lessons of history: hyperactive governments, with “new ideas,” almost always lead to disastrous results, if not outright oppression.
To be fair, some might argue America itself was originally founded on “new ideas” that were big and bold. And that would be true. But it was a different approach; the ideals of the revolution revolved around individual empowerment, capitalism, and self-government — the results of limiting the reach of power-hungry politicians. We became a great nation without an activist federal government bent on new notions of authority but, instead, by freeing humankind from the yoke of bondage, those longstanding restraints that had been in place since biblical times.
The Founders conceived of a new nation born in liberty, not in government.
The concept of “new ideas” might have ended then, for there was little need to go any further with it. Americans were to live in an “empire of liberty” with the freedom to pursue happiness and their self-interest.
But that was not enough for the busybodies who came later, those who proclaimed themselves economic progressives and vowed to enact “social justice” to fix what they perceived as the problems in American society. And with this “progressive era” came new, aggressive notions of unlimited federal authority and a “one-size-fits-all” mentality.
A watershed year for radical transformation was 1913, a major one in American history and, from a conservative standpoint, disastrous for liberty. Woodrow Wilson was one of America’s first transformative Presidents, and his federal initiatives in 1913 alone substantially altered the Republic.
The Underwood-Simmons Act cut tariffs from a protective level to a lower revenue level but to make up for any lost revenue, the same law enacted the first permanent, peacetime income tax, drawing its power from the new 16th Amendment, ratified less than a month before Wilson became President. What was billed as a tax on the wealthy, affecting just 4 percent of US households with a top rate of just 7 percent, soon touched everyone within four years and the wealthiest paid 77 percent of their income to Washington.
The Federal Reserve, a private banking corporation given authority over the currency and banking system, has been nothing short of disastrous. It was intended — at least in the public explanation — to provide stability to the financial system and end the periodic panics that plagued the economy nearly every two decades. And yet, the US dollar has lost more than 95 percent of its value since 1913, and the Fed has presided over the worst depression in American history, as well as numerous recessions.
The 17th Amendment, though passed by Congress in 1912 under Taft, was ratified by the requisite number of states and officially made part of the Constitution in May 1913 under Wilson. US Senators, by this new amendment, were now popularly elected rather than by their state legislatures, which was a deathblow to federalism and the foundations of state sovereignty as outlined in the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
A dozen years after Wilson, FDR ushered in an era of dependence on government with his New Deal, a vast expansion of government meant to end the Great Depression. But after tens of billions of dollars, and a slew of new federal programs and agencies, the depression raged until World War II, with unemployment averaging 17 percent throughout the 1930s.
Another “new idea” that was big and bold was Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. According to a Heritage Foundation study, in the more than 50 years since LBJ declared his “war” on poverty, “U.S. taxpayers have spent over $22 trillion on anti-poverty programs. Adjusted for inflation, this spending (which does not include Social Security or Medicare) is three times the cost of all U.S. military wars since the American Revolution. But progress against poverty, as measured by the U.S. Census Bureau, has been minimal.” It has been the greatest wealth transfer in history, and it’s not yet complete.
In addition to more than $20 trillion in debt, new federal ideas — bold initiatives, big policies — is what created within many of our citizens a sense of never-ending entitlement, which has only grown with time and, given the scenes on American college campuses these days, shows no signs of abating.
But America became a great nation, both an economic and military power, without the Federal Reserve, with no income tax, with few government handouts, without heroic notions of bureaucrats, and we can be again.
So we have little need for big, bold, new federal ideas.
The old ones, based on Constitutional government and respect for liberty, work just fine.