Q: Dr. Hurd, I read with interest your opposition to Obama’s economic program, and government intervention in the economy more generally. My question is this: If you don’t want Obama’s plan, what would you do–what would you support?
A: I would endorse the exact opposite of Obama’s plan, meaning: Trillions of cuts in spending (outside of defense); and trillions of cuts in taxes, across the board. I support ending the “progressive” income tax and, if not immediately eliminating it, getting it as flat as possible, as quickly as possible. But the most urgent and important priority, to me, is cutting spending. Conservatives never did this. They cut taxes, but refused to cut spending significantly in the Reagan years, and actually increased domestic spending in the Bush years, when they controlled Congress. This did them in, both morally and fiscally. They lost credibility, first as agents of change, and second as competent holders of office. That’s why they’re now dead, politically.
The moral part is the most important reason to cut spending. By eliminating entire Cabinet departments–Department of Education would be my first choice–the country would have a chance to experience the sky NOT falling when these pernicious government agencies simply go away. Then, in the years to follow, Americans would be able to witness that things actually get better with far, far less government. Imagine a public school system unencumbered by Washington D.C. Local teachers and school officials could run things much more rationally, without interference from the federal government. Better yet, imagine a privatized school system, in which schools answered to the needs and demands of teachers and students in the marketplace. It would take years for all this to play out–but you get the idea. Less government would mean more freedom, more rationality, and more control by consumers and business owners in the market place, with little or no control by politicians (the least competent members of society, in most cases).
Reducing spending is about way more than bringing the federal budget into balance. That’s important, especially if the dollar is not to collapse from inflation generated by government spending and deficits. But the biggest single reason for reducing spending is to reduce the role of the federal government, massively and permanently, in the lives of individual citizens. Reducing spending means setting people free. There’s no better way to do this than to stop funding most of the government as we know it. It would also aid in national defense. A federal government unencumbered by domestic programs could concentrate on its most important function: Protecting us from terrorists and foreign enemies.
There are many more things I support, too numerous to detail here. Another big one is to end the war on drugs. Prosecute people for harming others, but stop wasting government resources on chasing down people who are only hurting themselves by using or abusing drugs. This is an insane waste of money and waste of energy for both local and federal law enforcement officials. I don’t want to miss out on the help of a police officer to protect me from a thief so that this very same police officer can chase down someone who wants to smoke a couple of marijuana joints. Another urgent priority is to immediately and massively deregulate the health insurance industry. Let people buy health insurance across state lines, so they will have more options. Stop giving a tax break for health insurance to corporations and thereby end the incentive to tie health insurance to employment. Let it be the responsibility of each individual or family to buy health insurance in a totally open and completely deregulated market, as currently done (more or less) in the auto insurance market. Along with that, put younger people (say, 40 and under) on notice that they will NOT be receiving Social Security and Medicare and to start saving for their own retirement and medical care. Keep in mind that they will have in place a much more rational and predictable, affordable health insurance market by the time they reach the age of Medicare and would opt for this anyway.
The more spending we end, the less government we will have. There’s no reason to think that either of our two parties would ever support this. But it’s what we need. I don’t think that most Americans understand or agree with the need to do this. But after a couple more years of the Obama economy–well, we’ll see just where we are then, won’t we?