The expansion of the federal government has come at the expense of the nation’s economy, draining creativity, investment, and activity out of the private sector, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said in an appearance before Congress.
Bush made his remarks as dismal employment numbers for May were released by the Labor Department that showed the economy added just 69,000 jobs, a figure that edged up the jobless rate to 8.2 percent.
“I do believe that if the government gets bigger and more powerful, it largely does so at the expense of the rest of the economy, because government does not contribute to the economy the way the private sector does,” Bush said in remarks prepared for an appearance before the House Budget Committee. “A dollar spent on government services is not equivalent to a dollar of private sector investment . . . And the cost of everything you do here — every line item, every rule, every carve-out and phase-out and earmark — drains activity and investment and creative effort out of the private sector of the economy.”
Bush noted that the weak economy is the dominant concern for Americans, who are aware that the economy is not growing as it should.
“We are nearly three years past the end of the recession, and yet few Americans believe we have recovered from it, nor has our economy begun to grow at a healthy and sustainable level,” he said.
“The kind of snap-back we have seen in every previous post-war recovery simply has not happened. Many people who lost jobs in the last four years have not returned to the workforce – millions have given up trying altogether and have withdrawn from the labor market.”
Bush urged Congress to examine the effect the $3.8 trillion budget has on the economy. He noted that in the Washington area, the economy was doing fine.
“It is not an overstatement to say that right now, the U.S. economy operates significantly at the direction and behest of the U.S. government, not the other way around,” he said. “I can think of no better example of this trend than the economic growth of the Washington D.C. area. The district and its surrounding area, is a picture of economic health and growth. Housing values within the Beltway have not fallen, as they have elsewhere.
“There is a simple explanation for this: The near-constant growth of the main industry of this region — the federal government. And while the growth of the federal government is healthy for this area, one has to ask at what cost it occurs? Every dollar spent in this area was taxed from somewhere else — or borrowed, and therefore not used on some other productive activity.”
Bush called on Congress to “perform a fundamental cost-benefit reconsideration of many programs in the federal budget,” noting there are 49 different federal job training programs.
“I wonder about that number,” he said. “What do we, as taxpayers, get from 49 job training programs that 39 or 29 or just nine couldn’t accomplish? I wonder as well about the people who need the job training. How do they know which one is right for them? And who runs these training programs — are they being measured on the success with which they get people retrained?
“Do these 49 job-training programs operate with any sense that they could — and should — be closed if they fail? This is the daily worry of every business in America, but I would guess that not one of these programs ever worries that they will be put out of business by any of the other programs — or by their Congressional funders.”
Bush concluded that his plan was not just about making government more efficient.
“I am speaking of a much more fundamental goal, which is to apply a constant brake to the size of the government,” he said. “To make the government a smaller part of the economy. The impulse to do something here in Washington D.C., to resolve problems that exist in the country, is perfectly natural. But this impulse has only made government bigger, while the problems remain. We have to ask ourselves whether the status quo — an expensive and unaffordable status quo – is the best way to address the problems that the Congress has set for itself to solve.”
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