The PJ Tatler

In Government We Don't Trust

Yesterday, Glenn Reynolds (aka Instapundit) penned a column in USA Today showing Americans’ utter lack of faith in government, and for good reason.  It’s too big.  He noted the proliferation of policies aimed at securing our homeland from terrorism, the TSA’s grope fest at our airports, and Democrats pushing their anti-gun agenda in the aftermath of Sandy Hook.  It’s added to the growing fears that government is the biggest threat to our freedom.

Deroy Murdock wrote in National Review yesterday about the ever growing number of Special Weapons and Tactics squads are active in “the National Park Service; the Postal Inspection Service; the Departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Labor, and Veterans Affairs; the Bureaus of Land Management and Indian Affairs; the Environmental Protection Agency; and the Fish and Wildlife Service. Even Small Business Administration and Railroad Retirement Board staffers pack heat!”

Also, they deploy these heavy-armed crews against Americans, who aren’t particularly dangerous.

 • An FDA SWAT unit struck Lancaster, Pa.’s Rainbow Acres Farm in April 2010. From there, farmer Dan Allgyer illegally had shipped unpasteurized milk to his customers across state lines through something called a “cow-sharing agreement.” (Really.) Ignoring a woman’s right to choose raw milk, Washington launched an armed federal response against this Amish-run dairy. The company subsequently folded. [Thank God, government was there to protect us from the Amish!]

“He was not tricking people into buying it, he was not forcing people to purchase it, and there had been no complaints about his product,” stated then-Representative Ron Paul (R., Tex.). “These were completely voluntary transactions, but ones that our nanny-state federal government did not approve of, and so they shut down his business.”

U.S. marshals and other federal officers also have conducted similar actions against purveyors of unauthorized milk, cheese, and even elderberry juice.

• When financial questions arose regarding the Mountain Pure Water Company, Washington did not send a few staffers to inspect documents. Instead, last spring, some 50 armed Treasury agents breached Mountain Pure’s headquarters in Little Rock, Ark. They seized 82 boxes of records, herded employees into the cafeteria, snatched their cell phones, and refused to let them consult attorneys.

“We’re the federal government,” Mountain Pure’s comptroller, Jerry Miller, says one pistol-packing fed told him. “We can do what we want, when we want, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Also, leaving Federal overreactions aside, it’s a given that when government is too big – it performs poorly.

 New York Times blogger Nate Silver — best known for his prescient election projections in 2012 — matches up the data on distrust of government with the numbers reflecting increasing government spending on welfare (“social insurance”) programs, and makes this observation:

“The declining level of trust in government since the 1970s is a fairly close mirror for the growth in spending on social insurance as a share of the gross domestic product and of overall government expenditures. We may have gone from conceiving of government as an entity that builds roads, dams and airports, provides shared services like schooling, policing and national parks, and wages wars, into the world’s largest insurance broker. Most of us don’t much care for our insurance broker.”

Government used to do big things with obvious relevance to the public good. Now it takes money from A, and gives it to B. That could be part of it.

There’s also the fact that the sheer size of the government makes it hard to do anything well. Often two different parts of the government pull in different directions — subsidizing cheese, say, while simultaneously telling us to eat less fat. The bigger the government, the more likely we are to see these kinds of problems.

Case in point, the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act. According to the Washington Post, approximately 40% of the entire U.S. workforce isn’t covered by the law.  It was designed to help workers deal with health-related, or family problems, by giving them 12 weeks of unpaid leave without fear of being laid off by their employers.  However, from personal accounts, the law hasn’t been family friendly.

The law, which took nine years to pass, was designed to acknowledge that workers and their families get sick, workers have babies and workers need to care for aging parents. The business community insisted that the leave be unpaid as a check on employee misuse, said Marc Freedman, of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It does not apply to companies with 50 or fewer employees, part-time workers, those who have worked for a company for less than a year or those who have taken unpaid medical leave within the previous two years. It also does not cover workers who care for grandparents or extended family members.


And even when workers are covered by the law, they are sometimes penalized for taking advantage of it, as court cases and 5,375 labor violations show. Workers covered by the law have been fired for asking for leave to care for chronically ill parents or to accompany a dying father to the hospital.

Yolanda Holmes was fired when she didn’t return to work when her baby was 12 days old. Holmes had been on doctor-
ordered bed rest during her pregnancy. Her employer, the former E. Spire Communications of Annapolis, maintained that she had used up all her medical leave before the baby’s birth. She sued in federal court and lost.


Patricia Weth, 48, had worked for the Arlington County treasurer for six years. On the day in 2010 that she returned from a seven-week leave in which she underwent surgery and chemotherapy for uterine and ovarian cancer, her boss fired her. She sued. Although she lost, her case could help others who are fired by public officials.

“That’s the one gem that came out of this humiliating experience,” she said. “I fear this law is not protecting people.”

It took nine years to pass, and government still couldn’t hash out the details to prevent these tragic developments.  I think it’s time to return to the drawing board.

I would also add that when government moves too fast, it produces flawed policies.  The most recent example being New York’s new anti-gun laws, which banned high-capacity magazines, but forgot to exempt law enforcement in the final draft before passage.  In theory, every police officer in the state was in violation of the law.

When Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, he scaled back the size and scope of the federal government, and the public trust in it increased.  Coincidence?