One doesn’t have to believe that ObamaCare has “death panels” to know that handing this much power to the federal government means a whole lot of unintended consequences, abuse, fraud, and waste, says Reason.tv’s Nick Gillespie in his latest video. The only constant in the Beltway is that government programs grow and move away from the original limitations of their stated purpose. Nick uses TARP as the most obvious example:
TARP demonstrates the issue rather nicely. In its original form, TARP provided the Treasury a means to buy back assets that Congress had created through its intervention in the home-lending market, the mortgage-backed securities that became all but valueless in the collapse. That had a specific and limited purpose. It took only a few weeks for the Bush administration to convert it into a slush fund for Henry Paulson, and the Obama administration almost immediately expanded its use even further, all while Congress cheered both and pressed for even more corruption of the process.
How many MBSs did TARP buy back? Uh, let’s see if I can count them all — oh, yeah. Zero.
Medicare started off as a stop-gap measure to provide only safety-net health-care coverage to seniors who couldn’t find their own coverage. It has grown in 40 years to crowd out all other insurers except coverage provided by employers — and as anyone on Medicare can tell you, coordination of benefit issues between Medicare and private insurers usually leaves the insured worse off than with either alone. Social Security started off paying benefits to those who lived longer than the average American lifespan, and now acts as a pension for a much, much larger segment of society. Student loan programs started off as government incentives for lenders to help worthy students get an education, and now it will be a single-payer government loan program if the Senate passes the bill that the House produced earlier this year.
Why do federal government programs grow like weeds and expand like Mr. Creosote from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life? Power corrupts. These programs provide all sorts of opportunities for favor-peddling, influence buying, and lobbyist interest. That’s why we have to stop these programs before they get started — because once they take root, they are all but impossible to kill.