“The U.S. Government is the Greatest Invention in History”

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It’s easy to criticize government. Every misstep, every misappropriation, and every hint of waste is magnified in Big Media and used to empower hoards of anti-government zealots. In fact, an entire political doctrine is built around the evils of government and the perception of out-of-control spending.

The government deserves the criticism. The manner in which Congress taxes its people and corporations is beyond all logic, rife with loopholes to exploit, and the prevalent source of frustration from an outraged citizenry. The injustice is widespread and politicians seem to be beholden to the status quo and its beneficiaries – the special interests. The people should complain even louder and take to the streets. It’s that bad.

Equally unjust is the manner in which Congress allocates the money. The criticism should be louder and the outrage even more pronounced. Our government spends discretionary funds as if they are not accountable to the people and, if we do not hold them accountable, they will continue to do so. It’s the perk of being a legislator: Dole the money to special interests and be guaranteed a lifetime income. The rate or return for lobbying expenses is estimated to be in the tens of thousands of percent.

A report came out on Thursday that, for the first time, a majority of the Representatives and Senators in Congress are millionaires. One of the wealthiest is a felon once convicted of insurance fraud. He continues to securely serve his Southern California district. Many others have their own transgressions.

There is definitely a Congressional disconnect with most American people and their criticism is earned. In that context, the following statement will bewilder most people:

The U.S. Government is the greatest invention in the history of mankind.

Now compose yourself. The fact that it is a system that is ultimately accountable to the people is amazing. The Representatives and Senators do their parts to cause government’s dishonor but We the People fell asleep holding them accountable. When the people hold the government accountable, stay informed, and vote nimbly without political entrenchments, then we have at our disposal the greatest engine for cooperation, economic development, and expression of rational and artistic thought ever experienced or imagined on earth.

Government has its successes despite Big Media’s fixation on its failures.

One of the most reviled agencies in government is the Environmental Protection Agency. Papers complaining about long lead times for corporate and public works projects cross my desk weekly. Companies protest standards that are measured in parts-per-billion. Climate change is defamed as a hoax by 3% to 5% of the scientists. The list is seemingly endless.

What is overlooked is the extraordinary – no, the incredibly extraordinary – benefits the EPA has accrued to America. Let’s use China as the example for this claim. China is touted for its free market principles and economic growth (deserving of a future discussion). Oddly, free market advocates hold communist/fascist China as a model for the United States capitalism to emulate. Fascist states are very profitable in the short run for those holding power.

However, Chinese fascism has overlooked having an EPA. As a result, they commissioned a study by an international agency to determine what the absence of environmental laws and enforcement was costing them. The results were startling. It is estimated that contaminated soil, polluted air, lower crop yields, shrinking quantities of arable land, respiratory diseases, weakened immune systems, and similar quality of life and environmental damage costs China 6% of its annual GDP.

If we were to apply that 6% to the United States’ GDP of $16 trillion, the cost of not having environmental standards and enforcement would be about $1 trillion per year.

The EPA has an annual budget of $8.4 billion and the total costs imposed upon businesses to comply in 2013 was $20 billion. The EPA has an astounding return on investment (ROI) for the American people. Meanwhile those who complain about the EPA and manufacture in China continue to live in the United States.

This story can be repeated across many government programs. The Federal government’s Head Start program for impoverished children was studied for twenty years and determined to have a payback of 7 to 1. This was measured by improved health, attainment of higher levels of education by recipients, less crime and punishment, and greater employment.

IRS enforcement is believed to have a direct payback of 4.3 to 1. If you add the self-compliance realized by fear of increased enforcement, that ratio is tripled.

The Securities and Exchange Commission routinely investigates financial crimes and imposes penalties and collects financial transaction fees far in excess of their annual budgets.

More time, more paper, and more patience by the reader could let this list expand. Government has its benefits when done properly.

The enthusiasm of this pro-government column is muted by the quantity of unfinished work the people must demand.

Corporate subsidies defy economics but serve Congress’ masters well. The economic development potential and ROI of public banking to compete with private banks is beyond imagination. We waste over $500 billion per year on a health care system that bestows protection and wealth on those favored by Congress. The devilish details of energy regulation costs more than $20 billion a year. Tax loopholes for the privileged exceeds $1 trillion per year. The weaknesses in military procurement and unauditable defense contractors will cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars for a single weapon system – the F-35.

And, yet, Congress proudly proclaims it has not passed legislation this year.

The potential of the U.S. Government to serve the people is tremendous. Government has an ROI for the people when we hold it accountable. . Congress would prefer we leave them alone and not examine their every action but it is our responsibility to shine lights on their darkened corners. Get involved, be considerate, be informed, be loud, and do it now.

By Tim Danahey hosts the “Tim Danahey Show” at Danahey.com. Larry Checco is the principal at Checco Communications

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The Tim Danahey Show started in July, 2010 at internet station Castle Rock Radio. It started as a one-day-per week endeavor and quickly grew to five days per week. The show discusses economics, government, social issues, history, and non-fiction books in a magazine format featuring in-depth conversations with guests. Politics and inflammatory conversations are discouraged as they are divisive and counter-productive. Instead, the show seeks under-reported topics and delves into facts, different perspectives, and ramifications of each perspective.