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Big Government Doesn’t Want Us to Return to ‘Normal’ (Washington Examiner) April 21, 2021

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds.

A century ago, as the United States recovered from a worldwide pandemic and a major war, a presidential candidate wisely and successfully called for “a return to normalcy.” Warren G. Harding, in a campaign speech in 1920, could well have been speaking to people today when he said the “need was not heroics but healing, not nostrums but normalcy.”

With airplanes and hotels filling up, fans returning to ballgames, and even highly regulated California planning to open up in June, daily life is slowly returning to normal. As Dr. Anthony Fauci has said, “We all want normalcy in America, and the highway to that normalcy is vaccination.” More than half of adults in the U.S. have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, and all adults are now eligible.

Even our politics seem to be settling down. Joe Biden, who famously conducted much of his presidential campaign from his basement at home, has been low-key on social media, and even with traditional media has conducted only one press conference in his first two months in office.

All that is well and good, very good, actually, but the hardest part of returning to normalcy is yet to come: taming the bulked up federal government with its emergency declarations, executive orders, and massive spending. Against that, there is no vaccine. As Ronald Reagan put it in his famous “A Time for Choosing” speech in 1964: “No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size.

Although Biden’s speech may be softer in tone, his actions are nevertheless those of an emergency president. In February, he extended the COVID-19 declaration of a national emergency for an additional year. That may be well and good, but it bears watching because government finds it difficult to give up emergency powers. You and I currently live under some 30 states of national emergency, at least one dating back to the Jimmy Carter administration. Emergencies may come and go, but the declarations and powers tend to stay.

Biden has also been signing executive orders at a record pace. No president since Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s has signed more than Biden’s 40 orders in his first couple of months in office. And these are not just about COVID-19, either. You want gun control? Biden has an executive order for that. Immigration and LGBT rights? Why bother Congress? We can just order it up. Rejoin the Paris climate accords — who needs the Senate for that when you have signin’ Joe and his pen ready to go?

The big test of government normalcy, however, is federal spending, and that is going nowhere but up. First, another COVID relief bill to the tune of $1.9 trillion. Then more infrastructure at $2-plus trillion. A new 2022 budget proposal with billions of new spending on education, the environment, you name it.

President Calvin Coolidge met weekly with his budget director to get federal spending down following World War I. Cutting the federal budget down to size was one of Ronald Reagan’s top priorities, and even he could only reduce the rate of increase. It is a tough business. But so far, Biden is not even trying to cut; he is still happily spending through the more relaxed oversight of the COVID-19 era.

There will be a day of reckoning for emergency government, executive orders, and reckless federal spending. It may come in the form of Republicans finally getting enough spine to push big government back. There may be a debt bubble that finally bursts, with markets losing confidence in massive deficit spending. Or it may come from voters in the 2022 midterm elections. You can ask Bill Clinton (1994) or Barack Obama (2010) about those times when voters sent them strong electoral messages after feeling they had overreached on healthcare.

Return to normalcy, people say. Unfortunately, the federal government will almost certainly be late to that party.

To read the column at the Washington Examiner:


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