Around the country there have been calls to raise the minimum wage, to impose strict regulations on our businesses and to forcibly adopt a health care system that nationalizes one-sixth of our economy.
The intended role of the federal government established by our Founding Fathers was to protect the rights of all Americans. Nowhere in our Constitution is there a clause that mandates government to act as an employer, a health care provider or a charity—nor should it. However, over the years the role of government has shifted from protecting rights to selectively distributing them. This, in turn, has spawned a host of redistributionist policies that have been thrust upon the public as commandments. Many people are beginning to wonder why they are being forced to pay for their neighbors.
This big-government-fixes-all mentality—the view that government can and should be responsible for solving the ills of society—is the cause of the many failures behind national policy initiatives, no matter how well-intentioned they may seem.
Our nation's education system is a perfect example of the nanny state mentality that encapsulates today's policy decisions. Americans were told students would graduate from school “career-ready,” yet the result has been students who can barely compete with their international counterparts. Just last month, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan commented on the newly released results of the Program of International Student Assessment, saying “…[t]he big picture of U.S. performance on the 2012 PISA is straightforward and stark: It is a picture of educational stagnation.”
Our students are not the only victims of nanny state national policy. The incredibly unpopular Affordable Care Act, President Obama's signature legislation, is hardly an affordable alternative to what the private market had to offer. The resulting legislation has forced employers to make painful decisions: either scale down their workforces or risk going out of business due to the overwhelming fees and taxes forced upon them.
Worse, Obamacare has forced millions of Americans to accept higher premiums and more expensive health care, with some facing premium increases of nearly 40 percent. Time will tell if the ACA makes health care more affordable, but in the foreseeable future, it is hard to argue that broad legislation serves Americans better than private health care providers.
As the list of failing big government policies goes on, Americans continue to search for people and parties to blame. However, many are beginning to realize that a philosophy, not a party, is behind ineffective government. The record 42 percent of Americans who now identify as independents is a testament to this realization. The fight to limit big government is against a philosophy: a philosophy of nanny-state, all-encompassing government.
Surely it is not hard to see that big government is doomed to fail by its own devices. Government was not designed to operate as every sector of the economy, and its attempts to do so have been woefully inadequate. Until the nation soundly rejects the idea that government should legislate every part of life, America will continue to see government grow unchecked.
It's time to return to the idea that a good government is a limited one that trusts its own people to live their lives peacefully and to decide for themselves what is best. Innovation, economic growth and charity flourish when people are given the ability to keep what they earn and the freedom to choose how to live.Rep. Linda Upmeyer is the Iowa House majority leader and national chairwoman of the American Legislative Exchange Council. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions for editorials, available at this link.