David Gergen, the Yale graduate with a Harvard law degree who served in the Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton administrations and who now is a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, was last noticed here serving as a foil to Scott Brown. Mr. Gergen, moderating a debate for U.S. Senate candidates in Massachusetts, was the one who referred to "Teddy Kennedy's seat," giving Mr. Brown the chance to make his famous reply: "it's not the Kennedys' seat, and it's not the Democrats' seat, it's the people's seat."
Now Mr. Gergen has fetched up in the Sunday newspaper supplement Parade with a back-page article that makes some strong points:
Republicans now argue—with increasing justification—that we are creating more government than we need, more than we want, and certainly more than we are willing to pay for. Consider just a few statistics.
• Public spending by federal, state, and local government was 24% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 1950, 35% before the Great Recession, and could hit 44% this year.
• The Tax Foundation estimates that 60% of all Americans now receive more in income benefits from government than they pay into government, and that with new policy directions, the number will grow closer to 70%.
• The Tax Policy Center has found that while everyone is expected to pay payroll taxes, only 47% of American households now pay federal income taxes.
• The European Union has agreed that it is dangerous for a country to allow its publicly held debt to exceed 60% of its GDP. The Congressional Budget Office says that the U.S. could hit 60% by the end of this year, and on its current course could hit 100% by 2020.
• Meanwhile, The Economist estimates that the federal government now employs a quarter of a million people to write and enforce regulations.
Personally, I find these trends troubling. If they continue, we will diminish both the vitality and prosperity of the nation.
When even David Gergen says government is getting too big, it's worth paying some attention.