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Throwing off the Yoke of the Nanny State

February 1, 2010

A profound quote from a blogger identifying himself only as "Mike M.," on a website known as Missourah.com, crossed my desk the other day. With regard to the recent ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court, striking down key portions of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill passed into law a few years ago, the writer wrote: "Certainly, the spectre of corporate money buying candidates and influencing our political system is an unwholesome one. But the solution is not limiting campaign donations. It is limiting the power of government, so that the money spent in the system has less impact on our lives, and power is truly returned to 'the little guy' that politicians love to pay lip service to."

The writer has hit upon a truth abandoned long ago by Democrats and increasingly ignored by Republicans as well. Somewhere along the way, our politicians developed the idea that regardless of the growth of the private sector or the condition of the economy, the growth of government is a given. In fact, when times are toughest, and hard-working, taxpaying Americans are struggling to make ends meet in their own personal budgets — this is when paternalistic bureaucrats try to save us with higher taxes, more regulations and programs that generally provide little benefit but perpetuate the growth of yet more government.

In a misguided attempt at campaign finance reform, Senators John McCain, R-AZ, and Russ Feingold, D-WI, cosponsored the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Act, a bill that many have since called an incumbent protection act. It banned corporations and unions from "electioneering communications" within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election. With a wink and a nod toward the Supreme Court, President George Bush signed this bad legislation in 2002. In a 5-4 decision written by Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, the High Court has finally ruled that corporations are entitled to the same right individuals have to spend money on political speech for or against a candidate.

Ronald Reagan famously said, "Government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem." Smaller government is still at the crux of modern conservative thought largely because of the Gipper's leadership. And yet, due to greedy, overreaching members of Congress — primarily Democrats — government continued to grow during the 1980s and deficit spending ballooned. The 1994 GOP sweep of Congress, the lingering effects of Reagan's across-the-board tax cuts, the dot.com explosion, and the growth of investment by baby boomers combined to create a budget surplus through the Clinton years — despite his ill-advised tax increases.

However, in the last decade — with special emphasis on this last year — government growth has been frightening. Everyone pays lip service to the concept of big corporations holding sway in the halls of Congress, when the reality is that power hungry politicians don't want to have to restrain themselves.

It is somewhat akin to the Islamic edict that women must cover themselves from head to toe so as not to be a stumbling block to men. There is nothing in the Koran that instructs men to show restraint, only that women shouldn't show an ankle or a wrist for fear of tempting a man. Following this logic, Muslim men are basically admitting, "Yeah, we have no self-control, and we don't really want to develop it, either, so instead of keeping our lust to ourselves, we will put the onus of responsibility on the objects of our lust and blame them if we feel some overwhelming need to commit rape!"

Likewise, progressives like John McCain and Russ Feingold, by their support of this legislation, are saying, "We want as much power as possible, and we don't want outside influences informing the electorate of our plans, so anyone with the capital to mount a serious offense against our policies should be silenced so we can get back to creating the nanny state."

As The Wall Street Journal correctly opined on the issue, "In a season of marauding government, the Constitution rides to the rescue one more time." Perhaps if we were to dust it off more often, the Constitution might tell us that the expansion of government is much more insidious than the expansion of free speech.

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Copyright ©2010 Doug Patton

Doug Patton describes himself as a recovering political speechwriter who agrees with himself more often than not. His weekly columns are syndicated by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Readers are encouraged to email him at dpatton@cagle.comand/or to follow him on Twitter at @Doug_Patton.