THE PEOPLE SAY: SMALLER GOVERNMENT IS BETTER
Posted by Andrew Roman on December 18, 2009
Many on my side of the aisle like to use the phrase “smaller government” when upholding one of the foundational tenets of conservatism. I prefer to use the term “limited government” (i.e., restricting the federal government to only those functions clearly expressed in the Constitution). The distinction is very important.
“Smaller” government does not necessarily mean that the feds are limited to involving themselves to only specific areas of public life. Rather, it could still mean a far-reaching, overly intrusive, finger-in-everyone’s-pie brand of governance – but at a seemingly curtailed, more reasonably palatable level. It could mean prescribing cutbacks in specific areas, or being less involved in areas they shouldn’t have been meddling in in the first place – potentially good things, of course, depending on where those cuts happen – but it is not the same as keeping government confined to its Constitutional charges.
And while it may be a matter of semantics when it comes to collecting poll data, a new Rasmussen survey shows that the American people – by a margin of 2-1 – prefer “smaller” government.
And yes, that’s a good thing.
Sixty-six percent (66%) of U.S. voters prefer a smaller government with fewer services and lower taxes over a more active government with more services and higher taxes. That’s the second highest finding of the year: In August at the height of the congressional town hall controversies over the health care plan, 70% felt that way.
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 22% prefer a government with more services and higher taxes. Eleven percent (11%) aren’t sure which is best.
Eighty-eight percent (88%) of Republicans and 63% of voters not affiliated with either major party like a smaller government better. Democrats are more narrowly divided: 51% favor a smaller government, but 37% opt for a larger, more activist government.
Sixty-five percent (65%) of liberals chose a government with more services and higher taxes. Eighty-six percent (86%) of conservatives think a smaller government is better.
Six in ten also say that tax cuts, instead of increased government spending, are a better way to create jobs.
One would think this latest polling data is worthy of a rousing “hip hip hooray!” or even a “Yeah, baby!” from those of us on the steadily-recharging right. However, when I see these kinds of poll results, I am wont to proceed with caution.
Indeed, people can say anything they want all day long. They can make philosophical assertions for all the tally-takers, poll masters and statistical inquisitors they wish. But unless they put their votes where their poll questionnaires are, it’s hard to go sis-boom-bah over this.
The fact is, people like their “stuff.”
They want their “services.”
And they’ll go down scratching and clawing to keep them.
Many, for instance, are quick to condemn the installation of railroad crossing lights in some rural county far, far away, but will burn down the courthouse if their own neighborhood playground funding is slashed.
Platitudes and theories are dandy in water cooler debates, but how much Americans are really willing to do without in the name of conservatism, no one can really know.
Rob at the great Say Anything blog writes:
Maybe we’re seeing a new shift in the American electorate. Maybe this is that awakened “sleeping giant.” I could be persuaded to believe that, but in the past most Americans are only nominally against big government spending. When you talk about spending (and the debts and deficits that spending creates) in general terms it’s hard to find a single American who isn’t in favor of less. But when you start talking about specific spending, well suddenly that’s a different matter.
Please don’t misunderstand. As I said earlier, this is a good thing. This is generally a “thumbs up” kind of story.
Just keep talkin’, Obamacrats.