Analysis: The era of big government is back with a vengeance #Breaking112
This week, Joe Biden, a Democratic president, traveled to Pittsburgh to declare that the era of big government is back — with a vengeance.
Taken together, that almost $4 trillion in either real or proposed government spending put forward by Biden in the space of a month. That is a remarkable thing to ponder — and evidence that Biden’s presidency, if he can manage to shepherd the infrastructure plane to passage, will signal the triumphant return of the government (and government spending) into peoples’ lives.
Biden’s spending proposals, in fact, are rightly understood as a bookend to the time of shrinking government that Clinton touted more than two decades ago. And Biden’s embrace of a robust federal government spending trillions is also evidence of just how far the country has moved the the days of austerity championed by Clinton.
Hop in the time machine — come on, it’s fun! — and go back to January 1996, when Bill Clinton, in his State of the Union speech, proclaimed that the era of big government was over.
Clinton, in that speech, was positioning himself for his reelection bid. He had watched as Republicans two years earlier had seized control of the House majority for the first time in four decades by running on the “Contract with America,” — a campaign document rife with promises of balancing the federal budget and delivering tax cuts to Americans. And Clinton wanted to make sue the country knew he wasn’t the free-spending, big government liberal that he knew Republicans would seek to cast him as in the 1996 campaign.
Consider what he said just before the “era of big government is over” line:
“We know big government does not have all the answers. We know there’s not a program for every problem. We have worked to give the American people a smaller, less bureaucratic government in Washington. And we have to give the American people one that lives within its means.”
That is literally a line that any leading Republican in the 2010 edition of the GOP could have uttered.
And so Clinton gave them just that. And they re-elected him — overwhelmingly.
Now, hop back into the time machine and set the date for yesterday: March 31, 2021.
Moments of crisis tend to remind people why the federal government exists — and how it can do some things (like coordinate a nationwide vaccination program) that no other entity in public life can. And the last year has been nothing but an ever-worsening series of crises.
We are in a moment in which the Covid-19 virus has exposed our collective fragility — whether it be our own health (physical and mental) or the state of the economy. Many of us have never felt more at sea and uneasy — unsure that all of the things that we assumed to be true about our lives pre-pandemic will still be true post-pandemic.