It’s not just welfare: Our incredible shrinking government

Updated
File Photo: In this photo taken March 16, 2011, Cass Sunstein, Director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the Office of Management and...
File Photo: In this photo taken March 16, 2011, Cass Sunstein, Director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the Office of Management and...
AP Photo

Despite the inequality crisis America faces, all the political momentum seems to be favoring maintaining our meager welfare state its current size—at best.

But as blogger Elias Isquith points out, what’s happening to a lot of the federal government’s other administrative functions is far worse. He quotes The Economist’s Matt Steinglass, who writes that, over the past several years, “everything the government does apart from wars and transferring money to old and poor people has gotten creamed.”

So, for example, infrastructure spending has steadily declined over the past fifty years, even though an estimated one out of nine American bridges are reported to be “structurally deficient” and “potentially dangerous.” America’s water infrastructure is also seriously underfunded, potentially threatening access to clean drinking water. Funding for food inspections has also precipitously declined over the past few years.

President Obama, Isquith notes, has taken credit for reduced spending under his administration, and rightfully so. What’s less clear is why the president thinks that’s a praiseworthy accomplishment.

Under the aegis of Cass Sunstein—President Obama’s regulator-in-chief until he resigned this summer—the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs claims to have saved billions in government money by restructuring environmental and safety regulations. But Sunstein’s critics say that his industry-friendly policies have lessened workplace safety and positively incapacitated environmental regulations.

Even if Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and SNAP benefits survive the coming year more or less intact, the bloodletting is sure to continue elsewhere. On top of everything else, it would probably continue to have a harmful effect on our unemployment numbers: As we learned from this Friday’s job report, the economy has shed 89,000 public sector jobs in the last four months.

It's not just welfare: Our incredible shrinking government

Updated