The Campaign Needs A Radical, But Sanders Isn’t It

We could use a radical in the presidential race — someone who really challenges the status quo — but Bernie Sanders isn’t it. Sanders of course calls himself a democratic socialist, but that tell us almost nothing. One gets the impression the socialist label was pinned on him and, after resisting it, decided socialist sounded romantic and embraced it.

Nevertheless, whether you like socialism or not, Sanders is not a socialist: he calls neither for nationalizing the means of production nor for replacing the market economy with central planning. Yet that is what socialism came to mean in the mid-20th century. Democratic socialism meant that socialism would be achieved through the ballot box.

It is worth noting that in late 19th- and early 20th-century America, socialism was an umbrella term that was also used by radical free-market, or individualist, anarchists like Benjamin R. Tucker and Francis Dashwood Tandy, who called his 1896 book Voluntary Socialism. A socialist then was anyone who objected that workers were cheated out of their full reward and that prices of goods were fixed above the cost of production; in contrast to state socialists, free-market socialists attributed these evils to “capitalism,” by which they meant the system of government privileges for well-connected owners of capital.

What Sanders favors is an expanded welfare/regulatory state, i.e., more of what we have. When asked about socialism, he praises Medicare. Medicare, however, is not socialism, nor would single-payer for all be socialism. Under state-socialized medicine, government would own and operate the hospitals, and doctors and nurses would be government employees — like the post office without competition. Under single-payer, government would pay the bills for private-sector medical care and impose controls that powerful interests would inevitably manipulate to their advantage. Sound familiar?

The welfare state was established by western ruling classes to tamp down discontent among the powerless that had the potential to turn revolutionary. The father of the modern welfare state, Otto von Bismarck, intended government-administered social insurance to keep the Prussian working class loyal to the regime and out of the Marxist and liberal (libertarian) camps. In England, workers initially resisted the welfare state because it was seen as a move by the aristocracy to co-opt the labor movement, which sought to redress its grievances directly.

Sometimes Sanders says that being a socialist means merely that he’s neither a Democrat or a Republican. That’s not terribly informative. At other times, he says it signifies concern about gross income disparities, the high cost of college, and the lack of access to medical care. Again, this doesn’t tell us much since radical libertarians share those concerns. What matters are the solutions. Two people can look at the same social problem and argue over whether the best approach is more government, less government, or no government at all. Sanders’s preference, more government, would mean expanded bureaucratic control and special-interest “capture,” i.e., more of what already ails us.

In 1986, Sanders said, “All that socialism means to me, to be very frank with you, is democracy with a small ‘d.’ I believe in democracy, and by democracy I mean that, to as great an extent as possible, human beings have the right to control their own lives.” Considering that Sanders’s program would empower bureaucrats rather than people, one could consistently endorse Sanders’s objective while opposing his proposals. (See my “Free-Market Socialism.”)

He also said, “What being a socialist means is … that you hold out … a vision of society where poverty is absolutely unnecessary, where international relations are not based on greed … but on cooperation … where human beings can own the means of production and work together rather than having to work as semi-slaves to other people who can hire and fire.”

Again, these are objectives that any radical free-market libertarian could embrace. Where Sanders goes wrong is in aiming to empower bureaucrats and politicians.

Sanders cannot or will not see that expanding the welfare/regulatory bureaucracy would not help those outside the ruling elite. Beefing up the state won’t liberate us. Despite his intentions, Sanders is an unwitting defender of the status quo.

Where is the radical who will make the case for individual liberation and purely voluntary social cooperation through freed markets?

Sheldon Richman keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society. Become a patron today!

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

Exposed: Government-Style ‘Fairness’ For The 1%

Liberals love to extol their deep compassion for the poor, whom conservatives allegedly don’t give a fig about. Thus, our Community-Organizer-in-Chief pontificates endlessly about income inequality, to justify his determination to “fundamentally transform” our nation, so that “everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

Those would be the same rules that let the IRS target conservatives, the VA make veterans wait months for treatment, and the EPA violate every standard of scientific integrity – with no repercussions. It’s clearly not corporations or most citizens who don’t play by the rules. It’s Obama bureaucrats, supporters and sycophants, who manipulate government powers to their financial and political advantage.

As to “fairness,” Mr. Obama’s politically-loaded definition is designed to inspire more class and racial warfare, especially among those who angrily assert that they are being abused by Big Oil, too-big-to-fail banks, callous healthcare insurers and other large corporations.

It’s also intended to distract from massive failures of so many liberal programs, such as Great Society welfare programs that have spent some $22 trillion to date and devastated black families and communities – and the Affordable Care Act, which has ensured that millions don’t get to keep their doctors but will get to pay another 20% in average premium increases for 2016, plus still higher deductibles.

But big-money donors, Hollywood actors and environmentalists increasingly call the shots on “fairness” issues in the energy and environmental policy arena. With the president calling climate change “the worst threat to future generations,” and more than 21,000 new regulations imposed since he took office, it’s clear that the 1 Percenters take priority over the 99 Percenters. Electric vehicles are a prime example.

At a starting price of $33,170 for a 2016 Chevy Volt to more than $101,000 for an electric Tesla Roadster (the cheapest model), these so-called “green” cars are far beyond the reach of most American families. In fact, most workers have less money today than 40 years ago: average American wages have fallen from $53,294 in 1973 to $50,383 in 2014, using constant 2014 numbers.

And yet, all levels of government have instigated numerous rules that favor electric and hybrid vehicles at the expense of American families, who continue to see costs rise for nearly every essential commodity, thanks to regulations, special tax treatments and executive actions. Only gasoline, diesel fuel and natural gas prices have fallen – thanks to the fracking revolution that has unleashed US oil and gas production.

Electric and hybrid car buyers get substantial government subsidies, including tax credits of $2,500 to $7,500 (depending on the car’s battery size). Electric utilities in several states also provide a special rate for plug-in vehicles, to reduce the cost of charging electric and hybrid cars. Some states even offer credits for the purchase of charging equipment. And it’s largely justified by global warming horror stories.

Many insurance companies, including Farmers, also support plug-in vehicle purchases via discounted auto insurance policies for electric and hybrid cars in Maryland and other states. Several states also offer free parking and free electric charging at government-operated, taxpayer-funded charging stations.

California also provides rebates to people who buy or lease green vehicles or buy specialized charging equipment to install in their homes. Sony Pictures Entertainment offers a $5,000 incentive to its wealthy Hollywood employees who purchase electric or hybrid cars.

In several jurisdictions, green car drivers can also avoid traffic morasses that the rest of us must endure. Special stickers give them access to HOV lanes (High Occupancy Vehicles) that drivers of gasoline-powered vehicles cannot enter without one or more passengers in the car.

In the District of Columbia, green car owners pay less on registration fees and get an exemption from the excise tax on their original certificate of title. Montana and several other states offer substantial tax credits and other benefits for electric car conversions. New Jersey gives a 10% discount on off-peak tolls for the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway. Warren, Rhode Island, gives residents with plug-in cars an excise tax exemption up to $100.

Who pays for all of these benefits (and many more that I haven’t listed)? We all do. Who benefits? Actor Leonardo DiCaprio for one – and others who share his lavish 0.01-percent lifestyle, while proudly driving their Teslas and flouting their sensitivity to ecological and climate “crises.”

These wealthy motorists also contribute less to transportation infrastructure. Drivers of gasoline and diesel-fueled vehicles pay a user fee each time they fill up: 18.4 cents per gallon in federal taxes for gasoline and 24.4 cents a gallon for diesel, to help pay for bridge and road construction and repairs. Electric and hybrid vehicle owners use the same roads and bridges – but pay zero to minimal fuel taxes.

Georgia, Washington and a few other states assess user fees on electric and hybrid vehicles to cover road projects, but politically connected green drivers strongly oppose them. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (who chaired a failed electric car company) repealed Virginia’s $64-a-year tax after he was elected.

According to a recent Experian Automotive study, owners of battery-powered cars are more than twice as wealthy as average Americans. They also tend to be richer and younger than those who buy hybrids. Of those who purchased electric cars in 2013, 21% had annual incomes of $175,000 or more.

Not surprisingly, seven of the top ten cities for green car shoppers are in California. This year’s top seller (a measly 17,000 sold through September) is the Tesla S, with an MSRP starting at $106,200. (The ten most popular “regular folks” vehicles sold 295,000 to 527,000 units apiece in 2014.)

Of course, the hefty sticker price does not include the multiple freebies Tesla owners receive: subsidies, rebates, tax forgiveness, and the other benefits that average Americans pay for but don’t enjoy. In the meantime, the Obama Administration continues inflicting financial pain on poor, minority and working class families through regulations and executive orders that raise costs and stop job creation in its tracks.

The worst of the lot is the new ground-level ozone standard, which has been called the most costly regulation in U.S. history. This rule alone threatens to destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs, curtail funding for highway improvements in national parks and other “nonattainment areas,” and prevent the expansion of businesses unless other similar businesses close down.

The deceptively named Clean Power Plan will sharply raise electricity costs for average ratepayers, while doing nothing to clean our air. New rules governing methane emissions will likely impair drilling and put upward pressure on oil and gas prices – the one bright spot that is helping working-class Americans save about $100 a month via lower fuel costs. The Obama EPA and Interior Department are also doing all they can to make more US onshore and offshore energy supplies off limits, wage war on all fossil fuels, and lock the United States into a punitive new climate treaty.

It is a litany of rules that only elitists with plenty of disposable income could love.

That is not fairness. It is an intentional way to enrich and empower the wealthy, while stealing from everyone else, by pushing through policies that penalize blue-collar workers and families but do little to improve health or environmental quality. What the president calls “fair” is legalized or dictatorial theft, perpetrated on the poor, to get Tom Steyer and Terry McAuliffe to raise more campaign funds for members of the president’s party.

Of course, President Obama isn’t the only one who uses the word “fair” in political remarks. In her first major speech on the economy, Hillary Clinton called for more lib-style “growth and fairness,” saying it would be “my mission from the first day I’m president to the last.” We can hardly wait.

This kind of crony-corporatist “compassion” has become the hallmark of environmentalism and climate change politics.

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (, author of Eco-Imperialism: Green Power – Black Death, and coauthor of Cracking Big Green: Saving the World From the Save-the-Earth Money Machine.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

Here’s What ‘Progressive’ Corporate Welfare Looks Like

There appears to be a mistaken belief on the Left that any government action is either done in the interest of “the people” or in the interest of corporations and rich oligarchs. So the naked corporate welfare to Archer Daniels Midlands is called out, as are the sports stadiums being paid for by taxpayers, and of course the banker bailouts as well. (Although, it should be noted that congressional Democrats voted in support of TARP by a rate of three to one, whereas a slight majority of Republicans opposed it.)

In general, however, the Left seems to see tax cuts as corporate welfare while ignoring or outright supporting corporate welfare in many of its guises. The reason is because corporate welfare is rarely sold to the public as a way to help millionaires become billionaires at the taxpayer’s expense. It’s much more insidious than that. Usually, this cronyism comes wrapped in a bill of goods that makes it much easier to swallow.


While the Right yells about how the so-called Obamacare is socialized medicine, it would actually best be described as a corporatist scheme. Or in other words, it’s corporate welfare.

Indeed, if it were some socialist scheme to destroy private enterprise, one would suspect that these companies’ stock prices would plummet before the passing of the bill (March 23, 2010). Here’s what actually happened in the year prior to the bill’s passing for the five largest health insurance companies (the Dow Jones is in red):

Chart from (WLP = Anthem; CI = Cigna; HUM = Humana; AET = Aetna; UNH = United Healthcare)

The average return for these five companies over the year was 72.85 percent, almost twice that of the Dow Jones Industrial average. Cigna lead the group with a 98.5 percent increase. Now, it’s important to understand how stock prices are valued. They are not derived from the value of the assets a company holds, or even what the company has done recently. Instead, they are valued by how much a company is expected to make in the future and how much those future cash flows are worth today.

In other words, investors seemed to be uniformly of the opinion that Obamacare was good for business. And they were right. Here are those same companies’ performances during the last five years:

It shouldn’t be hard to see why an individual mandate and billions in subsidies for people to buy insurance from these companies could increase profits. This is especially true given all of the rate increases. The law’s poor conception has pushed health insurance companies to seek rate increases of 20 to 40 percent for 2016 because the “new customers … turned out to be sicker than expected.”

How about the pharmaceutical companies? In March of 2009, Billy Tauzin, head of PhARMA (the main lobbying group for the pharmaceutical industry) was asked whether investors should be worried about the upcoming healthcare reform. He responded as follows:

Think about what this plan does: This plan talks about providing comprehensive health insurance to people who don’t have it. That means to patients who can’t take our medicines because they can’t afford it: $650 billion spent to better insure Americans for the products we make. That ought to be a very optimistic and positive message for everyone [who] is interested in our sector of the economy.

They continued:

Mike Huckman: “… if there is some kind of universal healthcare plan where prescription drugs are more broadly available and they’re available at a cheaper price, [is it possible] that your sector may make up in a higher prescription volume and sales what it might lose on price?”

Billy Tauzin: “Absolutely, think about this: almost half of the prescriptions that get written today go unfilled … primarily because people don’t have adequate insurance.”

The LA Times reported that “Tauzin has morphed into the president’s partner. He has been invited to the White House half a dozen times in recent months.” Tim Carney lists some of the blatant corporate welfare in the bill:

1. Complex drugs known as biologics will receive a 12 year monopoly patent instead of the standard 5 years.

2. The individual mandate will require everyone to buy prescription drug insurance.

3. $196 billion in annual subsidies will be given to poor and middle class Americans to buy health insurance.

4. It preserves the 2003 Medicare Part D stipulation that prohibits Medicare from negotiating down prices for drugs it subsidizes.

5. It continues to prevent re-importation of drugs from Canada.

Given this, it’s not surprising that the drug industry paid $150 million to support Obamacare with things such as this delightful ad:

Cap and Trade

Early in Obama’s presidency (and John McCain’s platform), he pushed for “cap and trade,” a market-driven method to fight global warming. Or more accurately, a corporate welfare-laden plan that wouldn’t do much of anything.

Paul Krugman accused opponents of the bill of committing “treason against the planet,” and most of the left seemed to agree. But to give credit where credit is due, Dennis Kucinich actually hit the nail on the head:

[H.R. 2454, the cap-and-trade bill] is regressive. Free allocations doled out with the intent of blunting the effects on those of modest means will pale in comparison to the allocations that go to polluters and special interests. The financial benefits of offsets and unlimited banking also tend to accrue to large corporations. And of course, the trillion dollar carbon derivatives market will help Wall Street investors. Much of the benefits designed to assist consumers are passed through coal companies and other large corporations, on whom we will rely to pass on the savings.

Indeed, Al Gore makes an interesting observation in some of the bonus material to his documentary An Inconvenient Truth:

A lot of business leaders are changing their positions. New businesses and CEO’s and corporations every week are now joining this new bandwagon saying “we want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.”

Or perhaps they just saw gobs of money available to be made by getting in line with the government. After all, there was the Solyndra scandal, and then GE reduced its tax burden to zero primarily with green energy tax credits. Al Gore has even gotten in on the government dole for green technology and made a fortune. And then of course, there was Ken Lay.

In 1997, then-Enron CEO Lay wrote an op-ed entitled “For Prevention’s Sake: Focus on Climate Solutions.” In it, he strongly advocated the Kyoto Protocol, which would cap carbon emissions worldwide. On August 4, 1997, Lay met with Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and others at the White House to discuss Kyoto. He was an enthusiastic supporter. In 2001, Lay sent an emissary to the Bush administration to lobby for Kyoto. Surprisingly, his old friend turned him down (other interests to appease perhaps?). And of course, the reason Enron wanted cap and trade was the same as Goldman Sachs: to create a new energy market for them to trade in.

Cigarette Cronyism

Interestingly enough, the government actually makes more money off of tobacco than the tobacco industry (about $48 billion to $35 billion). And oddly (and morbidly), smoking probably saves the government money as it just means people die when they’re 50 or 60 instead of when they are 70 or 80 (and thus collect less Social Security and Medicare).

Cigarettes are still the most preventable cause of death around. So many would think the 1998 government lawsuit that lead to the Master Settlement Agreement would be a good thing. Not so fast. Here’s how Tim Carney describes it:

In exchange for settling all the state lawsuits filed in the 1990’s, the companies promised huge annual payments to state governments. To safeguard the new revenue stream, the states passed laws protecting Big Tobacco [the four largest retailers] from smaller competitors. Critics have called the MSA, “one of the most effective and destructive cartels in the history of the Nation.”

Many states are now extremely reliant on this tobacco money making; the government and tobacco industry are two peas in a pod.

What the Master Settlement Agreement did was simply cartelize the market. The settlement banned most advertising, which of course favored the big companies with well-known brands. But it also made sure “… that tobacco companies that were never sued, were never accused of wrongdoing, and in some cases didn’t exist when the alleged deception and wrongdoing occurred, and certainly never participated in the settlement would pay the same damages as the Big Tobacco companies…” The economies of scale for larger companies make these costs easier to swallow.

Small companies could get out of these payments if they “… joined the settlement within 90 days of its completion. …” But of course, there was a catch: “… small companies signing on to the MSA were not allowed to grow by more than 25 percent.”

Indeed, it’s hard to think of a better way to cartelize a market.


Big government is not a hedge against big corporations. Generally speaking, they work together against the consumer. While government intervention in healthcare reform, greenhouse emissions, and tobacco could be attempted in a way that didn’t line the pockets of big corporations, it rarely turns out that way. Entrenched interests are the ones with influence, after all. The best way to reduce the power and influence of corporations is to reduce the power and influence of government. Such a reduction would force firms to compete without special favors on the free market. Price and quality would be what sets companies apart, not their ability to influence politicians.

This commentary originally appeared at and is reprinted here under a Creative Commons license

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

Congress And The Fed Refuse To Learn From Their Mistakes

This month marks the seventh anniversary of the bursting of the housing bubble and the subsequent economic meltdown. The mood in Congress following the meltdown resembled the panicked atmosphere that followed the September 11th attacks. As was the case after September 11th, Congress rushed to pass hastily written legislation that, instead of dealing with the real causes of the crisis, simply gave the government more power.

Just as few understood the role our interventionist foreign policy played in the September 11th attacks, few in Congress understood that the 2008 meltdown was caused by the Federal Reserve and Congress, not by unregulated capitalism. Not surprising to anyone familiar with economic history, the story of the 2008 meltdown starts with the bursting of the Fed-created tech bubble.

Following the collapse of the tech bubble, the Fed began aggressively pumping money into the economy. This money flooded into the housing market, creating the housing bubble. The Bush Administration and the Republican Congress also added fuel to the housing bubble. These so-called “free-market” conservatives expanded federal housing programs in hopes of creating an “ownership society.”

If Congress understood the Austrian theory of the business cycle, it would have allowed the recession that followed the housing bubble’s inevitable collapse to run its course. Recessions are the economy’s way of eliminating the distortions caused by the Federal Reserve. Attempts by Congress and the Fed to end a recession via inflation and government spending will only lead to future, and more severe, economic downturns.

The corporate bailouts, government spending, and money creation via quantitative easing that Congress and the Fed have engaged in since the fall of 2008 have failed to produce even the illusion of prosperity. The daily experience of most Americans shows that the government’s doctored statistics drastically understate both unemployment and inflation.

This is not to say that no Americans have benefited from Federal Reserve policies. Even Donald Trump has called quantitative easing “a great deal for guys like me.” Much of the growth of government over the past seven years, from the bailouts to the increases in military and domestic spending to Obamacare, has also benefited politically-connected crony capitalists.

The Federal Reserve’s continued delay of an interest rate increase suggests that, contrary to its public statements, the Fed understands that the economy has not recovered from the meltdown and is on the brink of another major recession. Fear that the Fed is not being fully forthcoming with its view of the economy is one reason the stock market declined following the Fed’s recent decision to once again postpone increasing interest rates.

Learning the full truth about how the Fed evaluates the economy and its plans to respond to another downturn are two reasons why it is important to pass the Audit the Fed bill.

A vote on Audit the Fed would probably be the only good thing to occur in Congress this year. A Congress that cannot defund Planned Parenthood is unlikely to make any serious cuts in spending. Instead of waiting for politicians to do the right thing, those who know the truth must spread the ideas of liberty as far and wide as possible. Only when the teachings of the Austrian school are embraced by a critical mass of Americans will Congress cut warfare spending, cut welfare spending, and audit, and then end, the Fed.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

The Military Gravy Train: Full Speed Ahead

There’s something very odd about the United States military that makes many of the most budget-hawkish fiscal conservatives turn into starry-eyed, big government welfare pushers. The hypocrisy is breathtaking; at the same time as many conservatives are talking about “America’s descent into socialism” they are pushing their own brand of military socialism to ever more absurd lengths.

At a whopping $581 billion per year, the United States already spends more than the rest of the world combined on its military. However, even that number doesn’t represent the entire picture. As Robert Higgs has shown, when everything is included (from the Department of Veterans Affairs to the nuclear weapons expenditures in the State Department to the net interest on past debt-financed defense outlays, etc.) that sum is actually over one trillion dollars. Despite this, every Republican presidential candidate is pushing to increase the military budget. Even Rand Paul proposes adding $76.5 billion to the defense budget — which by itself is more than the military budgets of all but two other countries in the world (China and Saudi Arabia).

Fiscal conservatives love to pass around examples of government waste, such as the $615,000 grant that was given to the University of California at Santa Cruz to digitize photos, t-shirts, and concert tickets for The Grateful Dead, or the $175,587 spent “to determine if cocaine makes Japanese quail engage in sexually risky behavior.” Yet, many of the best examples of such mind-numbingly insane expenditures come from the woefully bloated military of the United States.

For example, in 2007, the Pentagon spent $998,798 to ship two 19-cent washers; and the Department of Defense spends over $10 million dollars each year to maintain hundreds of golf courses it owns, presumably an effort to keep America safe. But the worst boondoggle may be the F-22 fighter. Or perhaps it’s the F-35? It’s hard to decide.

According to The Washington Post, the F-22 “… has recently required more than 30 hours of maintenance for every hour in the skies, pushing its hourly cost of flying to more than $44,000 …” Oh, and it can’t fly in the rain either. On the other hand, the F-35 has brought with it a modest price tag of only $400 billion dollars, 70 percent over its initial cost estimate. And it can’t even defeat the fighter jet it is supposed to replace in a dogfight. These massive taxpayer rip-offs join many other projects costing hundreds of billions of dollars, for weapons the military often doesn’t even want.

Indeed, the “military-industrial complex” as Dwight Eisenhower called it, is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, examples of corporate welfare and corporate/government malfeasance around. Lockheed Martin and other military contractors use a variety of unsavory means to ensure ever bigger contracts for ever more unnecessary military contraptions to be paid for at the taxpayer’s expense.

One method is spreading the work around. Basically, these companies will contract and subcontract the work for any given project to as many congressional districts as possible to ensure wide support among congressmen who don’t want to see their district lose jobs. (It should be noted that Eisenhower originally wanted to call it the military-industrial-congressional complex.) For example, the F-35 mentioned above had 1,300 suppliers in forty-five states.

Another tactic is using the “cost plus” approach, which basically has the government pay the contractor’s cost, plus a certain agreed upon profit. Unfortunately, as is probably apparent, this provides the extremely perverse incentive for the company to let the project become as expensive as possible in order to make as big a profit as possible. And with examples such as the F-35, it’s hard to believe these companies haven’t taken advantage of this incentive.

Just as welfare degrades people’s work ethic and resourcefulness, when looking at the sheer waste of these military contracts, it appears corporate welfare degrades a company’s dynamism. As Tom Woods notes in his book Rollback, the amount the United States has spent on its military is absolutely staggering:

… during the period from 1947 through 1987 [the Pentagon] used (in 1982 dollars) $7.62 trillion in capital resources. In 1985, the Department of Commerce estimated the value of the nation’s plants, equipment, and infrastructure (capital stock), at just over $7.29 trillion. In other words, the amount spent over that period could have doubled the American capital stock or modernized and replaced the existing stock.

And what has all of this gotten us? Tom Woods again:

… after all this spending, the end result has actually been a smaller military with older equipment. Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, more than $2 trillion has been added to the 1999 baseline Pentagon budget. Roughly half went to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while the other trillion went to non-war military spending. What did Americans get for that trillion bucks? A smaller Navy and Air Force, and a trivial increase in the size of the army.

Add to this that the Pentagon is the only federal department exempt from audit (well, aside from the Federal Reserve if you consider that a department). And this makes perfect sense as its books are in complete disarray. Back in 2001, Donald Rumsfeld admitted that “According to some estimates we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions.” And as Reuters reports, the Pentagon “doctored ledgers [to] conceal epic waste” such as when “the Army lost track of $5.8 billion of supplies between 2003 and 2011 as it shuffled equipment between reserve and regular units.”

Is this the kind of “small government” these fiscal conservatives are looking for?

Perhaps it is. As conservative Mark Steyn noted in his book After America, specifically with regard to the bloated welfare systems in Europe and the United States, as well as the demographic decline of the West,

Faced with a choice between unsustainable entitlements and maintaining armed forces of global reach, the United States, as Europe did, will abandon military capability and toss the savings into the great sucking maw of social spending. That, in turn, will make for not only a more dangerous world but a more vulnerable America that, to modify President Bush, will wind up having to fight them over here because we no longer have the capacity to fight them over there.

Perhaps Steyn should have rephrased it as the “great sucking maw of military spending would be transferred to the great sucking maw of social spending.” And what exactly the Iraq War, for example, did to make the world less dangerous or America less vulnerable is — for good reason — left unstated.

And of course, the biggest question is left altogether undiscussed; why does the United States need either a bloated welfare state or a bloated warfare state?

And this boils down to the heart of it; the two parties have little more than two slightly different versions of big government they want to foist on the American people and use to line the pockets of their favored interests. Only slightly of course, because it’s not like the Republicans reduce welfare spending or the Democrats reduce military spending.

In the end, it’s not very complicated; a small government with a massive military is an oxymoron. It’s about time that fiscal conservatives figured this out.

This commentary originally appeared at and is reprinted here under a Creative Commons license

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by