(This was originally intended as the conclusion to my earlier piece, but I had a brain fart while writing that one up.)
So, what does work in times of economic slowdown, in ways that actually matter and last?
The toughest thing imaginable to the current power elite:
More specifically, having the government do nothing, and trusting the American people and American private industry work the problem.
Generally speaking, money given to the government is money that is wasted. A great deal of it is consumed in “overhead.” More is directed towards largely worthless expenditures that politicians use to further their own ends — usually, rewarding their supporters and punishing their opponents. Plus there’s the whole “in perpetuity” thing — once a government program gets started, it’s almost impossible to kill it.
Again, let’s go back to the “Cash For Clunkers” program. That one had one element that made many of us small-government type’s hearts swell: it came with an expiration date and a cost ceiling. But there were quite a few people who called for it to be given more money, extended longer, and start creeping towards yet another standing government program.
On the other hand, cutting taxes and allowing American citizens and businesses to keep more of their own money — that one has a distinguished history of promoting economic recovery and growth. Because private individuals and corporations aren’t burdened with seventeen zillion worthless layers of bureaucrats who all need to be properly appeased and given their “due” on every project. Because they don’t have to put up a building in West Virginia before they can hire seven people in New Hampshire. Because they can’t count on getting at least as much money next year, if not more.
Most importantly, they’re handling their own money, for their own benefit. It’s in their self-interest to get the best use out of that. Government workers, on the other hand, look at their budget and know that if they don’t spend every penny by the end of the fiscal year, then they can expect to get their next year’s funding cut. On the other hand, if they run up short, they can argue that they need even more money next year. And that dynamic which works so well in government is a ticket to bankruptcy in the private sector.
I hate to quote Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugs,” but she nailed it at the end when John Galt — imprisoned and tortured by the government for his “secrets” on saving the crumbling economy — answers them succinctly, on live television:
“Get the hell out of my way!”
That’s the best thing the government can do. And while it will cause pain in the short term (or, rather, allow the suffering to continue instead of ameliorating it), it’s pretty much the only thing that it can do to fix things long-term.