What I Learned From the ‘Mob’

Voters don’t believe the White House claim that we’ll save money by spending more.

by Dr. Tom Coburn, Republican Senator from OK
September 1, 2009
The Wall Street Journal Online

I spoke with thousands of voters at town-hall meetings this summer. What I gathered from them is that it’s not just the proposed overhaul of health care that has them upset. Many also expressed a sense of betrayal. In spite of their hope for change, it still appears that the government in Washington is run for its own benefit and the benefit of special interests—not for the benefit of the American people. The folks I met with also don’t trust politicians in Washington to address mounting long-term challenges to our economy.

It’s not just the attendees of town-halls meetings in Oklahoma. Voters across the country are telling Washington what’s on their mind, if only more people inside the Beltway would listen. A Rasmussen poll released last month showed that 40% of voters said that cutting the deficit in half by 2012 should be President Barack Obama’s top priority. Only 21% said health-care reform should be his No. 1 priority.

Notwithstanding these polling results, the administration and Congress have responded by trying to win public support on the strength of an argument that’s too clever to be true. They say that the key to saving money is spending money, a lot of money. And they’ve done just that with a $787 billion stimulus program as well as billions in bailouts and proposals to spend vast sums on health-care reform and other things. Their belief seems to be that every government expenditure grows the economy or can be counterbalanced with cost savings.

It’s a confusing argument, and it’s flat wrong, particularly with regard to health care. The Congressional Budget Office has said as much when it stated a few weeks ago that the health-care legislation before Congress fails to restrain costs and instead “significantly expands the federal responsibility for health-care costs.”

A more convincing argument would be this: Let’s save money by spending less. This argument doesn’t require a clever explanation, but it does requiring putting the government in the position where it has to set realistic priorities. Most families realize that they can’t live indefinitely on borrowed money and would be delighted if the government joined them in the real world of tough spending choices.

Read more of Dr. Coburn’s opinion here.

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