THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 65, February 15, 2000
State of Disunion
The Longest Wish-list Ever
by Vin Suprynowicz
Special to TLE
President Clinton has "never been known for the brevity of his
remarks," a CBS correspondent wryly observed, and indeed the
president set a new record with his 89-minute State of the Union
address Thursday evening, presenting in now-standard fashion a
laundry list of 101 bold new initiatives to eliminate hunger,
poverty, risk, and unhappiness -- everything from "consolidating the
confusing violence ratings" on video games and TV shows to a new
federal initiative to collect more money from deadbeat dads -- a
proposal which the president illustrated in typical show-and-tell
fashion by requesting a round of applause for one Carlos Rosas
("Stand up, Carlos"), apparently for making child support payments as
required by law to the mother of his child, to whom he remains
Yay! ... I guess.
(As for the "violence rating system" -- an area where the
Constitutional mandate for federal involvement remains obscure at
best -- note that the president thanked the industry for adapting
such a system voluntarily, as had been requested by him and the first
lady. Their reward for complying voluntarily? The government will now
impose on them a better, federal system. See how it pays to
What made this annual stemwinder all the more surreal is that the
president began the evening by proudly proclaiming everyone in
America is now rich and happy, which (except for the millions killed
or imprisoned for violating pointless edicts that didn't even exist
70 years ago) is very nearly true.
So why was it so unthinkable that the president might proceed to
merely solicit a round of applause for all the bureaucrats who have
done so wonderfully in achieving all the goals Lyndon Johnson set for
them back in 1964 -- whereupon he could break the good news that
they'll all be going home next week, all the federal ant farms
shutting down, last one out please douse the lights?
Instead, determined to "spend" the sleight-of-hand "budget surplus"
whose existence no one now questions (in fact, vast long-term
commitments remain unfunded, and the federal government continues to
sell debt instruments as fast as it can print them -- this outfit has
been actuarially bankrupt for at least 60 years), the president
blithely ticked off so many new and recycled billion-dollar proposals
that Republicans tallied the cost at $343 billion in new spending --
more than the amount of money which the government can actually
print. (Government presses currently spew out only $693 million worth
of currency a day.)
Up the street, the Libertarian Party tallied this year's
welfare-state opium dream in a different fashion, pointing out that
during Mr. Clinton's 89-minute "promise-a-thon" he proposed new or
increased federal spending to the tune of $743 billion ($400 billion
for Medicare; $343 billion for other programs), leading to the
mathematical finding that Mr. Clinton managed to propose new spending
at a rate of $139 million every second he spoke.
How are we to make sense of such a tangled mass of fiduciary flotsam?
The president said he favors $350 billion in "tax cuts" over 10
years, but most of those actually turn out to be "targeted tax
What's the difference?
George McGovern was laughed out of town when he proposed a "reverse
income tax" 28 years ago. But there it was, buried in the fine print:
a $21 billion expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, including
expanded child care subsidies which the president would "make
refundable for low income families" -- a "refundable credit" being a
euphemism for the very reverse income tax of socialist fable and
Yet meantime, all these so-called "tax cuts" would be tied to $100
billion in new tax hikes, which the president characterized as
merely "closing tax loopholes and shelters."
Tax "hikes" on those who actually pay taxes; tax "cuts" which take
the form of government payments to those who don't pay taxes. Get it?
And that's before we even get to initiatives like $280 million for
"the largest national gun enforcement program ever" - rewarding the
BATF for their fine work at Waco by funding 500 new BATF agents,
along with an unspecified new system to trace "every gun and every
bullet used in a crime."
Any requirement to put serial numbers on bullets would multiply the
price of ammunition 20-fold; would make felons overnight of hobbyists
who cast their own bullets; and would effectively outlaw the sale or
private possession of surplus military ammunition, the cheapest
source of cartridges for the weekend plinker.
Furthermore, the effectiveness of any such scheme assumes criminals
will be stupid enough to go into gun shops and buy ammo under their
own names. The town of Pomona, Calif. already has a municipal
requirement that all ammunition buyers fill out a form with their
name and address. I have seen ammo purchases successfully conducted
in Pomona under the names "Helen O. Troy" and "Marquis D. Sade."
Dealers say local police don't even bother to come around and pick up
the thousands of forms after the weekend gun shows.
Also buried in the president's 90-minute wish list was a paltry $1.6
billion over two years to get America deeper into the civil war
against "narco-terrorists" in Colombia.
Oh, what fun.
The president said he would "go after their money," which would
presumably require imposing American-style "anti-money-laundering"
laws throughout the Caribbean, crippling local economies as the
newly-wealthy exporters of Latin America's most popular agricultural
commodities would merely shift their funds elsewhere.
Then, later in the evening, the president promised Americans "new
protections for the privacy of bank and credit card records."
Don't you love it?
Afterwards, the television talking heads were full of praise for "New
Democrat" Clinton, who (we were told) "realizes that government can't
solve all our problems; it can only serve as an enabler ... an
instigator ... a facilitator."
Oh. So government isn't going to solve all my problems. It's
only going to "facilitate" my solving of my own problems. And for
that it only wants an additional $300 billion to $700 billion?
What a deal.
Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas
Review-Journal. His new book,
Send in the Waco Killers: Essays on the Freedom Movement, 1993-1998,
is available at 1-800-244-2224.
to advance to the next article, or
to return to the previous article, or
Table of Contents
to return to The Libertarian Enterprise, Number 65, February 15, 2000.